Our church reads through the Bible together. Recently, while reading Matt 23:3, a connection struck me which I’d not seen before.
The Lord was warning the disciples about the Pharisees. He tells them to observe and do what the Pharisees say, then He adds, “but do not do according to their works; for they say and do not do.” They say and do not do.
James 2:12 warns against that. James says, “So speak [or say] and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.” He has the Judgment Seat of Christ in mind. Don’t just say, James is saying. Say and do.
Many commentators miss the connection between Jas 2:12 and Jas 2:14, which says, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (Without works our faith cannot save us from temporal judgment. Click here for an excellent article on Jas 2:14 by Dr. John Hart.) Notice the saying, but not doing.
That connection continues in the illustration James gives in Jas 2:15-16. A believer sees a fellow believer from his local church in need of food or clothing. His response: “One of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled.’” Essentially the guy is saying he wishes them well. James continues, “but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body.” They say something encouraging, but they do nothing to meet the need.
We need to do what we say. It is not enough to say, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” We need to then give. It is not enough to say that a man should love his wife as Christ loves the church. We must love in deed, not just say that we love.
A hypocrite is one is says but does not do.
A caution is needed here. All of us sin (Rom 3:23; 1 John 1:8, 10). We all sometimes fail to do what we say we should do. If we feel we can no longer say since we are not perfect, then there could be no pastors, no elders, no Bible study teachers. Parents could not teach their kids.
Of course, the solution is not to beat ourselves up when we fail to do what we say. That is time to confess, pray, and seek practical ways to do what we say. Even though we do not always do what we say, that must be our aim. Failure should cause us to get back to doing, not to give up saying.
I hope I never become complacent about saying but not doing. What we say, we should do. As we live in light of the Judgment Seat of Christ, what we do will hopefully more and more match what we say.