There is an old saying that ignorance is bliss (i.e., great joy or happiness). However, if a person does not understand the importance of implementing biblical teachings in his (or her) own life, that person’s relationship with God is likely to be considerably less than it would be if that person did implement more biblical teachings in his (or her) life. As a result, that person will experience less, not more, bliss in their life.
Even people who are relatively knowledgeable about what the Bible says regarding various matters may not make much effort to implement in their life many of the teachings of the Bible. In this regard, James 1:22 states, “[B]e doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible, except when we are quoting a source that uses a different translation.]
The following are a few of the Bible commentaries that discuss the significance of James 1:22.
Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible declares,
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only – Obey the gospel, and do not merely listen to it.
Deceiving your own selves – It is implied here, that by merely hearing the word but not doing it, they would deceive their own souls. The nature of this deception was this, that they would imagine that that was all which was required, whereas the main thing was that they should be obedient. If a man supposes that by a mere punctual attendance on preaching, or a respectful attention to it, he has done all that is required of him, he is laboring under a most gross self-deception. And yet there are multitudes who seem to imagine that they have done all that is demanded of them when they have heard attentively the word preached.
Also, with regard to James 1:22, Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible says,
Hearing is in order to doing; the most attentive and the most frequent hearing of the word of God will not avail us, unless we be also doers of it. [T]he apostle [James] insists much upon it (and, without doubt, it is indispensably necessary) that we practice what we hear. “There must be inward practice by meditation, and outward practice in true obedience.” (Baxter)
David Guzik’s Enduring Word Bible Commentary addresses the same scripture, as follows:
It was common in the ancient world for people to hear a teacher. If you followed the teacher and tried to live what he said, you were called a disciple of that teacher. We may say that Jesus is looking for disciples: doers, not mere hearers.
“A teacher or preacher may give an eloquent address on the gospel, or explain ably some O.T. prophecy about Christ, but when the sermon is done, it is not done; something remains to be done by the hearers in life, and if they content themselves with sentimental admiration or with enjoying the emotional or mental treat, they need not imagine that this is religion.” (Moffatt)
“I fear we have many such in all congregations; admiring hearers, affectionate hearers, attached hearers, but all the while unblest [sic] hearers, because they are not doers of the word.” (Spurgeon)
Additional perspective regarding James 1:22 is provided by Sutcliffe’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, which states,
Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only – In order to that, we should hear with attention so as to understand, for at that time the readers were few. The poor could not read, nor buy the scripture parchments.
The preceding commentaries make it clear that James 1:22 instructs people not only to hear what the Word of God (i.e., the Bible) says, but also to do what the Bible teaches. And, by inference, people who otherwise become aware of what the Bible teaches (e.g., by reading) should likewise comply with those teachings.
Some people who are knowledgeable about what the Bible states may erroneously think that most of what the Bible says is applicable to only the people who were involved during the times when the recorded incidents took place and, therefore, those teachings are not relevant to themselves. In other words, these people read the Bible as if it is a history book rather than a spiritual guide. These people need to ask God for the ability to discern which biblical teachings are relevant to them and then appropriately apply those teachings in their own life.
Many other people who know what the Bible states about various matters pertaining to right and/or wrong may choose not to follow biblical teachings regarding those matters, because they do not care what the Bible teaches in regard to such matters. However, sooner or later, God may decide that it is necessary to bring circumstances into their life that will motivate them to do what the Bible teaches. Rather than waiting for this to happen, these people ought to humbly ask God for His assistance in helping them to live according to what the Bible teaches.
Be that as it may, it is likely that most of the people who are aware of what the Bible says do have a sincere desire to follow biblical teachings, but they do not have the depth of commitment to God that is necessary to be faithful. These people too can benefit from sincerely asking God for His help. They can ask Him to help them not only to be more committed to Him, but also to know how to apply in their life the teachings of His Word (see Proverbs 3:5-6 and James 1:5).
Although it is worthwhile to know what the Bible teaches, particularly with regard to spiritual matters, such knowledge alone is not sufficient. Correct understanding of biblical teachings is also necessary. Furthermore, obedience to such teachings needs to be demonstrated regularly in every person’s daily life. Otherwise, a person’s knowledge of the Bible is vain (i.e., worthless). Therefore, every person should ask God to help them to understand how they should apply in their life the teachings of the Bible.