Running Our Mouths
If all the talking and good intentions in the world led to action, people would eat a lot more salad; McDonalds would go out of business instead of increasing the size of their beverage cups and french fry containers every few years. We would all be avid readers, world travelers, and marathon runners; but we aren’t. Talk is cheap, as they say, which isn’t so far off from the biblical truth:
In all labor there is profit,
But mere talk leads only to poverty (Proverbs 14:23).
We know this is true, but we still have a hard time getting in gear. I know I do. Talking about things is far easier than doing them. This problem doesn’t just plague our diet plans, it permeates the whole Christian life (and by Christian life, I mean life and everything in it). We divide our talk from our action in so many ways that it is now normal to think of Christianity as an internal spiritual thing completely divorced from our activity in the physical world. Why on earth do we think this way? The Bible never separates our faith from our actions.
Work to DO
God didn’t create us as disembodied spirits to hover idly in space, He created men and women with hands and feet, and placed them in a garden on the earth. He assigned work to do: multiply, subdue the earth, take dominion. He didn’t tell them to just think religious thoughts in their minds, or feel religious feelings in their hearts. God isn’t a Gnostic. From the very beginning He gave men and women righteous work to do in the world and the minds and bodies to do it with. Even before the fall into sin and the entrance of death, there was work to be done. Still now, labor awaits.
The first Adam left us an inheritance of sin and death which yet plagues and discourages us. Our work is riddled with thorns and our labor is punctuated with pain. Even so, the mandate to take dominion was never revoked. We can work with hope because all things are being made new. The reign of sin and death is limited. Jesus Christ, the second Adam, brought reconciliation and life. We are His ambassadors to bring His message of reconciliation to the world (2 Corinthians 5:17–21).
The risen King Jesus tasked us with going to all the nations to teach them to obey His commands. We are to labor to subdue all creation; working and building and cultivating. We are also to proclaim the message which subdues the hearts of men and of nations. We must call them to bow to the King of kings, teaching them what it means to do the word of the Lord in every single thing that they do. This isn’t just an altar call, it is a transformation of the nations, it is knees bowing and tongues confessing the Lordship of Christ. It is people hearing and then doing all the commands of the Lord. That sounds like taking dominion to me.
Our generation believes that we are what we say, rather than, we are what we do. We think our talk speaks something into existence. A woman can declare that she’s a man, this does nothing to change her biology. In the same way, declaring we are Christians proves nothing. The book of James tells us to, “Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
Over and over again God’s word links our faith to action. Our actions don’t earn us eternal life, but it is clear that people of faith are people of obedient action. Further on James declares that the 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 1:22–28)
He doesn’t just mean say a prayer asking Jesus into your heart. He means study the word of the Lord and do the things God’s perfect law commands—all of it. His word has broader reach than we generally give it credit for. We must not be forgetful hearers of His word when it talks about the abomination of unjust weights and measures and adding dross to our silver. We should hear and remember when it gives direction for just courts, righteous judges, and reliable witness testimony. We must act on the word whether it speaks of sexual ethics, righteous business practices, education, land stewardship, or international relations.
Equipped & Called
Paul tells us that all of Scripture is profitable for us and equips us to do every good work (2 Timothy 3:16–17). We do not lack instruction. We do lack the willingness to look intently at the perfect law and learn what we must do. We are forgetful hearers. We lack the courage to trust that the Lord’s ways are right, and go forth putting them into practice. When we study God’s word we should ask less “How does this make me feel?” and more “What does this tell me to do?”
If we want to see the nations come to Christ, perhaps we should start by doing the commands of the Lord, all of them, in our own neighborhoods. Only when we cease to be forgetful hearers and become effectual doers will we be ready for the job of teaching the nations to obey His commands.