Do the Word
I’m a Georgia Bulldog fan. I’ve always been a Georgia Bulldog fan. When I was younger, my dad had season tickets to Georgia football games. Every year we would make our way to the Saturday home games, and it was always exciting to be a part of the crowd. You might be able to see the game better on television, but there is nothing like being in a stadium with 80,000 people cheering on the team. When I was a kid I saw Georgia lose a lot of games. Ray Goff was the coach, and he didn’t lead Georgia to be a national powerhouse. His successor, Jim Donnan, didn’t do a whole lot better.
In 2001, Mark Richt took over the helm as head coach, and while the team has had its struggles the last couple of years, he has been an impressive coach as he has led the Bulldogs to a couple of SEC championships and some great bowl wins. He is a top quality coach, but even more significant than his coaching ability is the fact that he is a Christ follower. Like most coaches of major college football programs, Richt is not hurting financially. He had a lakehouse that was valued at $1.99 million. He recently sold it, and he told a reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution why:
“Within the last year, I read this book, The Hole in Our Gospel, written by Richard Stearns. He’s the president of World Vision, U.S. I think people understand who World Vision is but, basically, they help the poor. Through their organization, you can help children, you can help build wells, you can buy them donkeys, whatever people need. World Vision helps people across the world. Well, anyway, there was a lot of statistical data in there about the amount of people that live on a dollar a day around this world. Billions of people. So I’m reading this book and it really affected me. It helped me realize that what we have is way more than we need and that our ability to give is hindered by this property. I guess that’s the best way to tell you. We just wanted to be in a better position to give and bless people that don’t have anything. We felt like this was one way to be able to do that.” (You can read the full article here.)
Richt sold his lakehouse, not his primary house, so he hasn’t sold all his possessions and given them to the poor like Jesus told the rich young ruler to do. (And Jesus doesn’t require everyone to do that anyways.) However, Richt is making an effort to live sacrificially for the sake of others. In James 1:22, James calls this being a doer of the word and not a hearer only. Being a doer of the word means what it says. We do what the Word of God tells us. It’s not optional. We don’t get to pick out what parts of God’s Word we’ll be obedient to and neglect those parts of God’s Word that are not as easy to obey. For example you can’t say, “I don’t have a problem being faithful to my spouse. I’ll do the word in that area. However, I’m not going to help those in poverty. They might take advantage of me and become dependent on my giving. I’m not going to take Jesus seriously in that area.” That’s not how it works. We are to do the word, and we are to do all of it to the best of our ability as the Holy Spirit leads us and empowers us.
The reality is that it should come natural to us to be doers of the word. After all, we have a glorious Savior, Jesus Christ, who has sacrificially given His life for us, taking our place upon a cross, dying for our sins, and rising again to secure eternal redemption for us. You would think that in light of the sacrifice made for us, we would desire to please our Lord and do what He says. However, you and I know that we struggle with doing the word. We are hearers only. Many of us can talk for hours about theological matters, but actually living out those things that we hear on a regular basis, that’s another story.
James gives a few examples of what it looks like to be a doer of the word. He says in 1:26-27, “If anyone think he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” In these verses James mentions three tests that help us to determine if we are being faithful in doing the word.
First, we control our tongue. He devotes a whole chapter to this in chapter 3. We are awful at controlling our tongues, arent’ we? Second, we show compassion to all people. In this passage, James mentions widows and orphans because they were some of the most neglected people in their society. We cannot neglect to show compassion to others. For many of us, that may mean giving up some of our luxuries (like a lakehouse, eating out three times a week, cable television, etc.) in order to better meet the needs of those who are hurting around us for the sake of the Gospel. Third, James tells us to be unstained from the world. Instead of being influenced by the world, we are to influence the world we live in. When we look at these three tests that help us to determine how we are doing in the area of obedience to Jesus Christ, we’d probably be ashamed to admit how we have neglected the word instead of doing the word.
There’s good news. Christ has given you His Holy Spirit. If you are in Christ, He has changed you. As you grow in Christlikeness, you will find that your desire to do the word grows stronger and stronger each day. The key is actually walking with Christ. Here’s the question: in response to what Christ has done for you, will you live your life in full obedience to Him?