"Odors" of the Word

by Pete Johnson on September 10, 2020

The passage in James 1:22 brings about memories from a long time ago.

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22, KJV).

Not just for its practical advice for living, but one of my earliest introductions to this verse.

Around the age of 11, our family attended Midway Baptist Church, located on the corner of Bob White road and 14th Ave in Panama City Fla. A small church that at the time was being temporarily pastored by a retired missionary to China by the name of Frank Woodward. Brother Woodward was quite elderly and had a very kind, caring, and gentle way about him.  While he was on the mission field in China during WWII, he sent his family back to the States and stayed with his congregation during the Japanese invasion because of the love he had for the Chinese people, a love that he showed to all of us in that church.

On some Sunday evenings, after we would sing from the Hymnal and before Bro. Woodward delivered his evening sermon, the congregation would participate in a short time of sword drills. The first person, man, woman, boy, or girl, to find the verse would be allowed to stand up and read it before the congregation. As an 11-year-old me, I was chomping at the bit to beat the “old people” at these sword drills, a feat I had not yet accomplished in my tenure at Midway Baptist Church. With my Bible closed, both thumbs on the ends of the pages, head down, concentrating with all that was within me, I prepared myself for the bout. Bro. Woodward called out the text, then repeated it, at that point my breathing became shallow, my throat tightened up, and I began to feel the anxiety that happens to all of us during sword drills! The deafening sound of what seemed to be thousands of pages turning filled my ears, the room was filled with energy and excitement as my fellow parishioners and I desperately searched for James 1:22! Then it happened! Somehow, it just happened! I opened up exactly to the book of James, I had hit the mark! Perhaps I was already standing before I found the verse, but it didn’t matter, I was first!

Overcome with the thrill of victory, I read the text. As I finished, I heard the snickering of the adults in those wooden pews around me. What? I thought to myself. Did I, in my mindless excitement, turn to and read the wrong verse? I had often seen that happen to my peers in Sunday School, but to have it happen in Big Church would be a mark on me forever!

This is how I read James 1:22 “But be ye ‘odors’ of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

But looking back on that Sunday evening so many years ago I can see how true that reading of James 1:22 actually was. As followers of Christ, we should be, odors of the word. People around us should be attracted by our odor, the evidence of our faith in Jesus Christ through the way we live our lives.  For when our lives do not match up with what we say we are, we deceive no one but ourselves.

What kind of ‘odor’, doer of God’s word are you? Do you repulse those around you with the way you live your life, or do you attract them to Jesus?

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing." (2 Corinthians 2:15)


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