Photography is one of my hobbies. I bought my first 35 mm camera about a year after I started my first real job – when I finally had a little money of my own.
But I really didn’t know what to do with it. I had never had photography lessons. I started by reading the instruction book. Later I got books on photography to read. Still later I took a couple of courses. The books and courses were helpful. They pointed me in the right direction.
The real learning took place only when I took the camera out and actually took photos and then saw the results. In photography, like in many things, we learn by doing.
In the New Testament book of James we hear, “Be doers of the Word, not merely hearers…” (James 1:22).
We hear many things. But they don’t necessarily become part of us. When we hear and then follow through with our actions, what we hear becomes a part of our lives. Our lives are changed – transformed. When we hear the word of God and then put that word into action in our lives – then we become doers of the Word. Then our lives are changed and we are able to do God’s work in the world.
We are doers of the Word when we pray. When we pray we are putting our relationship with God into action. As we pray we open our lives to the Lord. Through prayer we share our deepest concerns with God. Through prayer we listen to God’s Word for us. As we pray, our faith grows because we know the Lord’s presence is with us.
We can study about prayer. We can read books. We can take classes. But none of these actually allow us to know and hear God. When we pray, we know God. We hear his words. And by this experience, our lives are changed. We are formed in God’s image. We are doers of the Word.
We are doers of the Word when we serve others. When we serve others, we are taking the love we have received from God and passing it on to others. When we serve our lives are blessed also – we are changed.
A few years ago, my church took a mission trip to Quito, Ecuador. We went to serve others – we helped a congregation build a new church building. But we received so much more than we gave. Though this experience our lives were changed. We learned compassion and generosity. When we serve, we are formed in God’s image. When we serve, we are doers of the Word.
We are doers of the Word when we are generous in how we treat others. For James, this means putting aside an attitude of arrogance or anger. These oppose God’s life. It means listening before speaking. It means holding your anger. It means turning away from all actions that separate us from God. When we put the word of God into action in our lives, it will demand sacrifice. We will have to give up what we want to do to do what God wants us to do. It is easier to shout my demands than to listen. It is easier to take revenge than to forgive. It is easier to turn my back on another than to seek reconciliation.
But the Word of God demands different actions from our lives. The Word of God calls for generosity, forgiveness, reconciliation. When we are generous with others, we are doers of the Word. Then the Lord will form us in his image. He will change us into the people he can use in his world as his witnesses.
“Be doers of the Word, not merely hearers…” When we allow the Word of God to be lived out in our lives through our actions, we will be formed as God’s people in his world. Then we will be able to do God’s work. Then we will be able to be God’s witnesses. Then others will see our lives and know God’s life and God’s love.
This is what happens when we put our faith into action.