The black and white world of James


As I've been reading through James lately its come to my attention that he uses a lot of categories for different types of people that I don't often, if ever, resort to. I much prefer to go with the typical jargon of "Christian" or "believer" when talking about, well... must I say, Christian. But not James.

No—he's much more to the point, not willing to give more than really need be given.

When it comes to describing someone who has received "the implanted message", he is quick to draw a distinction between a "hearer" (ἀκροατής) and a "doer" (ποιητής).

And to make this contrast more stark he uses a lexeme that specifically refers to being an audible listener (contra a form like ἀκούω, which could imply both hearing and a response).*

And just in case there was any confusion about him referring to someone who listened with their ears and did not follow with their feet, he qualifies "hearer" with "only" (μόνος).

There can be no mistake. He said what he meant, and meant what he said.

So it seems that James doesn't waste time categorizing his fellow brothers and sisters as simply "believers" or "Christians", or maybe more Jamesian "message-weclome'rs".

For him, the only thing that matters—if that is, you're concerned with saving your tush from judgment, using a big mercy cushion—is the distinction between a "hearer" and a "doer".

And if you haven't already guessed: you better be a doer!

Wonder what you should do? Go read James. He'll fill you in. But for starters, try this:

  • look after orphans and widows in their affliction
  • keep yourself unstained by the world
  • be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger
  • consider hard times a blessing


Take hard times like a Stormtrooper.


* This lexeme he chooses is quite rare in the New Testament. Only occurring 4 times; and 3 of these times are by him (James 1.22, 23, 25). Funny enough, the other time is by Paul in a statement that curiously parallels James 1.22:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous. (Romans 2.13; LEB)