Leonardo da Vinci said, “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
Leonardo’s words echo the inspired counsel found in the book of James, “Do not merely listen to the word [of God], and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James elaborates, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.”
We do not know if Leonardo da Vinci ever read the epistle of James, but he surely captured the importance of being doers of the word and not hearers only. James explains just how important this principle is in God’s eyes: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
There are many Scriptural examples where people knew the right thing to do, but did not do it. An outstanding example from our readings recently is in the prophecy of Jeremiah. After the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and carried away captive most of the Israelites, the people left in the land wanted to know what God wanted them to do. They came to Jeremiah and asked him to ask God for direction: “Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do.” They promised, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.”
“Ten days later the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, ‘If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you, for I am grieved over the disaster I have inflicted on you. Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands. I will show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land.’ ”
What the people decided to do when they heard this message from God was so wrong, especially after they had just said that they would obey whatever God said. First the people tell Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie. The Lord our God did not send you.” Then they decide not to do what God told them to do. They later tell Jeremiah, “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord! We will certainly do everything we said we would.” Not always are those who deliberately disobey the word of God quite so blatant as these people who rejected God’s message. Sadly, the end result is the same in that when people do whatever they want to do and not what the Lord commands, there are consequences. The fate of these people should be a warning to all of us to take seriously the word of God and obey it.
Faith is one of the essential requirements for salvation. James in his epistle makes it quite plain that it is impossible to show our faith without action. We need to do the righteous deeds that we know should be done. James calls those who disagree with this principle as being vain, from a Greek word meaning foolish or shallow. “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”
We do not have a choice when it comes to God’s commandments. God did not give Moses the ten suggestions. When God told Israel to rest on the Sabbath, He really meant it, and the penalty for the man who disobeyed by picking up sticks was death.
What are you and I doing about obeying our Lord? Are His commandments subject to discussion or do we submit willingly? Too many people in the world today want to play fast and loose with God’s commands, and we as His sons and daughters must not allow the thinking of the world around us regarding tolerance towards sin to affect our thinking and actions.
Once we know what we are to do, we must do it to the best of our ability. Leonardo da Vinci was right when he said, “Being willing is not enough; we must do”. Jesus tells us what it will be like when he sits on his throne at his return to establish his kingdom: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.’ ” We must act on our beliefs if we hope to be granted a place in the kingdom. James was correct when he said, “Faith without works is dead.”
We pray that the Lord will give us the wisdom and faith to be workers together with Him, doing His commandments and looking forward to serving with His son in His soon coming kingdom.
Robert J. Lloyd