“A forgetful hearer” James 1:25

by Steven Chan

Forgetfulness is something that those of us who are growing old, are often worried about. ‘Short term memory loss’ is also a concern. Older people sometimes only can recall things of old but they can’t remember whether they had just locked the car door! We need to keep our mind alert and functional lest we forget.

The Bible warned us against the danger of being forgetful.

The Bible warns us against being a “forgetful hearer” of the Word of God, in James 1:21-25:

“Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

Many of us have sat through many Bible classes and have heard many sermons (some really soul-stirring ones too). But how many of us actually remember what we have heard or studied? If we wish to remember God’s Word, we need to do the following:-

  1. We need to change our mindset such that we are prepared to put aside from our mind all immoral thoughts and overflowing evil thoughts; the KJV renders this as “all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness”. In other words, a mind that is filled with “carnal”, “worldly” or “evil” thoughts cannot possibly retain the Word of God. According to Rom 1:28, a “debased mind is one that will not like to retain God in their knowledge”. No wonder some have sat through numerous Bible classes and still do not have any knowledge of God’s Word. Then one day, when they are challenged by their professors or by their friends concerning their faith, they are neither ready nor able to give an adequate answer (1 Pet 3:15) and they soon fall away! They can claim that their “tightly constructed faith” crumbled. In reality, they had a very shallow faith, if any at all.
  1. We need to “receive the Word of God” with “meekness”. There must be the “humility of mind” to receive God’s instructions – just a like a newborn babe receives his milk (1 Pet 2:2). If we have a proud or haughty mind, then we will not have God’s Word dwelling in our minds. If we reject the importance of God’s Word and just consider it as fables then we will not progress in our understanding of God’s word.
  1. We need to “implant” the Word of God in our minds; it needs to stay inside our minds. The seed, which is the Word of God (Luke 8:11) must be buried deep within our hearts and minds so that it may influence all of our thoughts, intents and actions. Superficial remembrance or consideration of God’s Word will not ensure that we remember His Word.
  1. We need to realize the significance and importance of receiving God’s Word. “It is able to save our souls.” The Word of God is not for academic enlightenment or debate. It is not for arguing who is right or who is wrong, or to show how clever one is. It is meant to save lives! Unless we acknowledge its significance, the Word of God will not remain in our hearts and minds. No number of lessons or sermons will result in us remembering His Word.
  1. Finally, one must resolve to do what is taught by God’s Word. It is in the continual doing of God’s Word that we will remember and not forget His Word. It is in the doing that we receive the blessings of God. It is not in the mere hearing of God’s Word. Of course, it is hoped that one would have “faith” based upon the hearing of God’s Word (Rom 10:17). But if one does not seek to do what God’s Word says, then where is one’s faith? One must “walk” by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).

So, as we start the New Year, may we all resolve to change our mindset by putting aside all filthiness and evil thoughts, and replacing them with a mind that is set on the things above (Col 3:1-2; Rom 8:5-7). Resolve to not think evil thoughts.

Resolve to fill our minds with God’s wisdom. As the Psalmist said in Psa 119:18: “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.”

Moses reminded the children of Israel in Deut 4:6-11: “Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 “For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? 8 And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?”

Being guided by God’s wisdom and understanding, and being able to call on our God for grace to help in time of need through our prayers, we are truly a blessed people of God. We ought not to be a people of “forgetful hearers” but “doers of the Word”.