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For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. (James 1:23)
James, in these verses, starts to explain the problem with those who simply listen. When looking into a mirror, man has his image reflected back at himself, where he can see all of his flaws and faults. The purpose of looking into the mirror is to see if anything is out of place so that he can make any needed corrections. Can we imagine looking into a mirror, seeing a big stain on our shirt, our hair is completely disheveled, or that we have something on our face, but we ignore them and head off to work?
The image he sees in the mirror is sent to the mind, where it is evaluated, reasoned on, considered. For this reason, by looking at the Word of God, by hearing the Word of God, we can see our true selves. We can see all of our imperfections, character flaws, and human weaknesses. We can also see any wrongdoings, misdeeds, even thinking that is out of harmony with the Word of God. We must keep in mind this analogy is a negative one that looks at a person who looks intently at his natural face in the mirror, sees the things that need to be corrected, but walks away ignoring them. The same is true with the Word of God. He looks into the Word, listens to the needed corrections as he reads, forgets or worse still, ignores them, and chooses to remain inactive, and fails to respond.
The area of comparison in these verses is understood. The apostle James is referring to what all persons encounter. We do not grasp a distinct form of ourselves after we have looked into a mirror. While genuinely looking in the mirror, we can see all of our features and follow them plainly enough. However, when we turn away from the mirror, the image and the form both vanish. If we focus when we look into the mirror, we can see all of our defects and blemishes. If there is a scar on our face, some physical disfigurement, a characteristic that does not look pleasing to the eye, it is plainly before the mind. However, the moment we turn away, it becomes a case of ‘out of sight and out of mind.’ When we cannot see it, we have no apprehension, and if it were possible to correct any defects, we would move heaven and earth to remove them. So when we hear the word of God, it is like a mirror we are looking into. In the perfect Word of God from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, we see our own shortcomings and defects. At times we are moved to correct them when we have the Bible open before us. However, when we close the Word of God, we immediately forget it all. Yet, if we were ‘doers of the word,’ we should make every effort to remove all those stains and defects in our moral character. We would move mountains to bring our whole personalities into conformity with the Word of God so that we have the mind of Christ, that is until we are biblically minded. The phrase ‘natural face,’ (γένεσōς πρόσωπον genesis prosōpon), a “face of birth” means the face or appearance that we have had since our natural birth. “The odd expression ‘face of genesis’ (πρόσωπον τῆς γενέσεως) is simply a Semitism for ‘natural face.’ This is the face they would have seen in any reflective surface since they were children.”
 Craig L. Blomberg and Mariam J. Kamell, James, vol. 16, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 90.