Read James 1:19-20 (ESV)
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
How can you apply this principle to the way that you receive God’s Word? How can you apply this principle to the way you handle conflict with your brothers and sisters in Christ?
We know the way that the world handles debates and disagreements these days. The first step is to get mad and offended almost immediately. Then, refuse to listen to your opponent. If you do happen to give the other person time to say their piece, don’t listen carefully to their thoughts or ideas. Tune out and plan your comeback instead. If you follow these worldly problem-solving steps, in the end, almost all arguments will dissolve into shouting matches that don’t solve any problems or change any minds.
But in today’s verses, James advocates for a better way. He says, “my beloved brothers” which shows that he is addressing the church family and encouraging them to act in a way that is different from the rest of the world. James says that instead of being quick to spew out our own ideas, we should be quick to listen. Before we speak, we should slow down and think. Plus, rather than being quick to take offense, James said that we should be slow to anger.
When we consider the context that we find these verses in, we see that James is talking about the Word of God in this passage. That means that James is likely telling us that we should be quick to listen to God’s Word, slow to verbally respond to it, and we shouldn’t get mad at what He has to say!
I have noticed an increasing anger towards God’s Word these days, especially on social media. Many people are making provocative videos by pulling “offensive” verses out of context. Instead of taking time to consider context and the verses in light of the rest of Scripture, they are quick to argue with what God said. They don’t slow down long enough to do a humble heart check. And of course, they are often very quickly upset at what the Bible says and angry that Christians would believe it.
But James warns that this is extremely foolish. It is wise to shut our own mouths and open our ears to God’s truth. Jesus agrees. In Matthew 13:9, Jesus finished telling the parable of the sower with these words, “He who has ears, let him hear!” In other words, listen up! In Romans 10:17, Paul reminds us that faith comes when we hear the Word of God. How reckless to disregard what the God of the universe has to say and how beneficial to pay attention to it!
After we hear God’s Word, James suggests that we ought to be slow to respond to it, especially if we are going to respond in anger. Who do we think we are to argue with the Word of God? And yet, many of us attempt it, which points to deeper issues. Being easily offended and defensive when the Bible calls out our sin exposes just how much we love our sin. Plus, there’s the issue of our pride. Carefully listening to God’s Words, quietly considering how His Word applies to our lives, and accepting His truth without anger is a mark of humility, not pride.
Today’s wise teaching from James has the power to transform our relationship with God. But, I believe that it has the power to transform our relationships with others as well! How many conflicts could be solved simply by listening to each other and carefully considering what others have to say? How many fights would be avoided and relationships mended if we kept our mouths closed, our ears open, and our tempers under control?
Friends, whether we are receiving the Word of God or dealing with conflict in a relationship with a brother or sister in Christ, we would do well to apply James’ teaching to the situation. Proverbs 17:27-28 puts it this way: “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” The point is clear. It is the humble and the wise who are quick to be quiet and listen up!
Lord, I confess that I don’t always follow James’ advice. Help me to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, especially when I am reading Your Word. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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