Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and . . . immediately forgets what he looks like. (James 1:23)

“I’ve got good news and bad news,” the softball team captain told the pastor. “The good news is that the women’s team finally won a game. The bad news is that they beat the men’s team.”

There’s good news and bad news about the Bible in our society, too. The good news is that the Bible remains a perennial bestseller, with so many copies being purchased each year that the bestseller lists don’t even bother including it in their rankings. Almost nine out of ten North American households own a Bible, and the average household has three. The bad news? It doesn’t do much good on a shelf.

James takes this issue a step further. It also doesn’t do much good if we read it but don’t obey it. He makes his point with humor. Imagine someone checking himself out in a mirror and then doing nothing at all about what he sees. The dirty face remains unwashed, the disheveled hair uncombed. It’s a funny image (pun intended), and we can imagine the laughs a comedian would get out of it.

But if I read a promise from God and don’t claim it, or a command and don’t obey it, or a warning and disregard it, I’m the guy at the mirror. Somehow, now, that image isn’t so funny after all.

Read God’s Word with application as your goal.

Bob Black is professor emeritus of religion at Southern Wesleyan University, where he served for thirty-two years. He co-authored the denominational history, The Story of The Wesleyan Church.

© 2020 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission. Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.