God has given us His Word to help us to know Him and also to know how to live. It is important for all believers to read the Word and to keep it in their hearts. It is equally important to follow the Word, to live by it and do what it says. We are told in James 1:22-24 that if we only hear what God’s Word says, but do not do what it says, then we are deceiving ourselves. We are like a person who looks intently at himself in a mirror, then walks away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
When we read and hear God’s Word, we learn what is expected of us by God in our lives. The Word teaches us the right thing to do. When we have that knowledge, when we know what the right thing to do is but then fail to do it, that becomes sin for us (James 4:17). We sin when we know something is not right and do it anyway, but we also sin when we know that something is right and yet we don’t do it. That is a sin of omission.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus provides an example of neglecting to do the things that we know are right through God’s Word. Lazarus was a poor man who laid at the gate of the home of a certain rich man. The rich man wore expensive clothes and dined on the finest of foods every single day, while Lazarus went hungry and would have been happy just to have some of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. The rich man never made it his business to reach out to Lazarus and offer him food, even though it would be the right thing to do.
When both the rich man and Lazarus died, the rich man suffered in Hades, while Lazarus received comfort in heaven. When the rich man asked Father Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers that they must do what is right, Abraham said that, if the rich man’s brothers were not convinced about what was right by what they read in the Word (Moses and the Prophets), then they would not be convinced just because someone rose from the dead to tell them (Luke 16:19-31). What we read in God’s Word should be sufficient in showing us the things that are right. It is our responsibility to do them.
James 1:25 tells us that when we read and hear God’s Word and are also doers of that Word, we will be blessed. The Greek word translated as blessed in this verse is makarios, which conveys the idea of someone who receives God’s favor. It means blessed, happy, or privileged. Jesus tells us that the person who hears God’s Word and keeps it is the person who is truly blessed (Luke 11:28). He also tells us that those who hear the Word and do it are part of God’s family, personally related to Him (Luke 8:21). What a wonderful promise that is!