Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Self-Deception is a Heck of a Blind Spot

self-de·cep·tion [self-di-sep-shuhn]; noun
1. the act or fact of deceiving oneself.

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22)

In many ways, we have it easier than those who first heard the Epistle of James. They had no choice but to "listen to the word", because they only had access to a single hand-written letter, and photocopiers & papyrus didn't mix all that well in those days.

They had to listen. And then not forget what they'd heard. And one of the best ways of not forgetting something is to go out and immediately put it into practice.

Nowadays, we have it easier. We can listen at church, or in home group, and even in conversation over lunch. And when it's convenient, we can also read it as many times as we'd like, whenever we'd like, and access Bible study helps, commentaries, and download apps to aid us.

But I suspect that self-deception may be a bigger problem than we realize. In my case, anyway.

I had barely pushed "publish" on my previous blog post (you know, the one about social media outrage and how it doesn't equate with Christ-like character?) and I came across an incendiary comment on a friend's page that blew me away.

After typing several scorching replies that never got sent (thankfully), I realized that I was being tested by the very words I had just written.

I was, according to the definition given by James 1:22, teetering on the edge of self-deception.
"But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do." (James 1:25)

parakyptō; verb
1. to look carefully into, inspect curiously

The Greek word parakyptō is translated "looks intently" in our language. It's more deliberate, more intentional than "casually glancing over", or perhaps "skimmed quickly in between sips of coffee". It's more of a stop and look carefully moment. And there's plenty in the book of James to stop and look carefully at: taming the tongue, not showing favoritism, faith and works, etc.
We "look intently" because we are fascinated by the prospect of living life as God intended us to.
To read through James quickly and rush off to do something else, thinking that we've done our bit, is actually the very form of self-deception that James warns us against.

That is a sobering, and yet inspirational thought, depending on what we do with it. (Personally, I would recommend the "look intently" and "put into practice" option.)

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