In this passage, the central point that James is trying to make is this: as Christ-followers we are called to respond to truth. He urges that the Bible is not meant to just be listened to or read but that our intake of the word is meant to produce actual action that leads to righteousness and freedom. He begins with specific calls to action for his audience, encouraging them to be "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry" (v 19), on the basis that taking these actions would produce righteousness. He is saying that he believes that as we respond to God's word that we gain freedom and blessing.
At the core of James' message in this passage is an emphasis on WHY pairing listening and action matters. There is a misunderstanding that to "look intently into the perfect law" and "continue in it" means to be limited, obligated and tied down. However, the reality is that God's law is a gift. It is a roadmap to freedom, an instruction manual for abundance, a key to unlock all that Christ died for us to have. God's word, his perfect law, is meant to protect us from destruction. If you understand the purpose of the law and God's heart behind it, it no longer feels like obligation but instead screams FREEDOM!
So, in light of the gift that God's law & his word truly is, we should respond by applying the truth found in scripture to our daily lives. Do not read the word & then leave what you read behind in your quiet time. Don't forget the more that you were invited into with each verse. Start with reflection. For example, take verse 19, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry..." and ask yourself: Am I quick to listen or quick to speak? How do I live out this well? How do I not? How can I improve in being slow to anger? Then after reflection, make a plan. Pray about how to put what you have read into action. Ask someone older and wiser for accountability and suggestions.
"Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24). God, I trust you and I say that you are trustworthy. I trust that your roadmap for life is better than anything I could dream up. I pray that you would help me discern how to put your word into action and that you would give me the courage to follow through. I need you, God. Thank you for calling me out of darkness and into freedom. In Jesus' holy and powerful name, I pray, amen.
- Megan McGarrah