“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”-{James 1:23-25}


James describes what a “hearer” only of the Word is. Someone who listens to God’s Word and that is as far as it goes. The word “hearer” was used of students who audited a class of a lecture but did not have to do the assignments or exams. Some can be like that. Believing that to hear the Word is enough. That there is no personal responsibility to hear with the intent to act in obedience to what is heard. They in essence are “auditors!” Satisfied they have heard but no personal application needed!  They are “deluded.” Self-Deceived!

James goes on to give an illustration of what the “hearers” are like. He says they are like a person who goes to a mirror and looks at them self and then when they go away from the mirror they have forgotten what they looked like! They could have spaghetti sauce all over their face and needing to make an adjustment, they could have something stuck in between their teeth that needs to be removed and yet leaving as is they go away and do not make any adjustment to bring order and they forget what they saw in the mirror.

Forgotten,” what they have seen. As someone has said it is not a matter of a poor memory but of poor priorities! The reason being they did not regard it as important enough to give it their attention, so they move on to the next thing.  Israel were warned against “forgetting” God in time of wealthy, “But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the LORD your God and disobey His commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today.” – {Deut 9:11 NLT}, they are warmed “…not to forget all His benefits”- {Psalm 103:2}. “Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember Your abundant kindnesses,But rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.“-{Psalm 106:7}.”They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel,   “-{Psalm 106:13}.” They forgot God their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt”-{Psalm 106:21}. “Remember the Law of Moses My servant.”-{Mal 4:4}. The danger in failing to remember the LORD and His goodness. They Forgot Him. And indeed He was often replaced by something else. He was not the Priority! Think of it this way, you ask your child to clean up their room and when you go check it has not been done {again.}. You ask them “why?”  and they say “I forgot,” when in reality it is not high on their priority list! They have a priority problem not a memory one!

Israel did not have a problem with their memory but with their Priorities!

This “forgetting” what he saw in the mirror leads to carelessness and a continuing on as if there is no adjustment to be made. The adjustment is more than cleaning the spaghetti sauce of your face but adjusting what needs adjusting in your attitude, character, life to be in accordance with God;s desire for you according to His unchanging Word!

“Forgetful Hearer” versus “An Effectual Doer”

Note the contrast to the FORGETFUL one in verse 25, “But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an EFFECTUAL DOER, this man will be blessed in what he does.

The word “But” or “rather” shows the contrast with the person who looks intently at the Word of God which is “perfect,” flawless, without error, deception which is called the “Law of Liberty” and note the one who “abides by it… an effectual doer will be blessed in what he does.” The one who hears and obeys the Law of Liberty, experiences true spiritual freedom. By using “Law” he refers to the authority is carries and it is under God’s authority will a person truly be free! “Freedom’ stands opposed to bondage, slavery! Free from the bondage to the Law – {Gal 2;4} Free from the bondage, enslavement to sin -{Rom 6:16}, His Law frees us from sin and to live in righteous obedience to Him, not out of fear but from love to Him who has loved us-{Read John 8:34-36}. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” -{Gal 5:1}. Liberty is Freedom and Christ has set us free once and for all!

There is a contrast between the hearer and the doer! The hearer who ends at just hearing is deluded, self deceived. The “Doer” of His Word is Blessed! His “Law of liberty” frees the person up. “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”-{John 8:31-32}.

This one who hears and DOES the Word is not a “forgetful hearer” Like the story of the 4 soils and the one who alone is fruitful while the other three who also hear do not produce the fruit, the difference this one DOES the Word applies the Word, “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”-{Matthew 13;23}

“has in view an abiding in the law which means readiness to do it as compared with a mere glance that results in no transformation of life.” (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans)


“Not” (ou) signifies absolute negation. This person hears the Word and ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT FORGET, but instead OBEYS what is Heard! This is what characterizes the “effectual doer” of the Word in contrast to the one who merely hears and deludes them self who live in a state of self deception.

“An Effectual Doer.”

“Effectual”-(ergon) is the general word for work and depicts that which displays itself in activity of any kind. In secular Greek, this word group (includes ergazomai, energeia, etc) denoted active zeal and occurred in relation to all kinds of work.”-{preceptaustin}

Doer.”- {poiesis}singular noun used only here in the New Testament. It is to live a consistent life of doing His Word. Living to do His will as revealed in His Word.

The “doer” is “blessed!” The word is”makarios,”…which means to be happy, blissful. It is not speaking of a happiness based on favorable circumstances but the contentment knowing God is in control, God is working it all out for good. “Makarios” speaks of the happiness as a result of receiving Divine Favor. It speaks of spiritually “prosperous” the state of “prosperity” that is a result when a superior bestows his favor (blessing) on someone. Makarios is a state of existence in relationship to God in which a person is “blessed” from God’s perspective even when he or she doesn’t feel happy or isn’t presently experiencing good fortune. This does not mean a conferral of blessing or an exhortation to live a life worthy of blessing; rather, it is an acknowledgment that the ones indicated are blessed. Negative feelings, absence of feelings, or adverse conditions cannot take away the blessedness of those who exist in such a relationship with God!”-{preceptaustin}