I love the Bible – the Word of God! As I turn to it day by day I always find what my soul needs. It truly addresses all of human need. It is a source of wisdom that can be trusted and it is always profitable. I was reminded of that today as I turned to the little book of James. James is that book we turn to when we just need some practical instruction on living well. It is where we go to learn and relearn how to live in relationship with God and other people.
The verse that popped into my head just when I needed it this morning was; ” Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; (James 1:19 ESV).” I had spent a few minutes on social media and as I observed others talking past each other – brothers and sisters in Christ divided and angry, and I was heartbroken. I wanted to shout this verse to them, but realized that I was the one in need of its instruction.
I so need to develop my listening skills. All too often, instead of focusing on what someone else is saying I am formulating my response as they speak. I don’t try to understand what they are saying because I assume I already know their thoughts. If they use some overused or trite slogan (the kind that tweets well), I almost immediately load it full of baggage that they may not have meant at all. Of course, that tendency comes from a prideful heart that feels he has little to learn.
I need to listen to other people, but the heart of that verse and passage is not just that. The context is clear that most of all I need to listen to the Word of God. Verse 21 commands us to “receive with meekness the implanted word,” and verse 22 elaborates that we must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” While I need to hear what other people are saying, most of all I need to hear what God is saying and act upon His word! This isn’t just an instruction in being a better conversationalist – it is command to listen to my creator.
The second instruction is that we must be “slow to speak.” It is not a command to be silent, but rather to speak only after listening and considering what we have heard. We are often too quick to give our opinion or advise. Verse 26 puts it very directly when it says: ” If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Just as a horse needs to be bridled, my words must be kept under control. Later, in chapter three James warns that not too many should become teachers because we are judged with “greater strictness.” For those of us who speak as a major part of our calling/occupation there is a higher risk of talking too quickly and that is matched with a higher accountability which we must always be aware of.
The third instruction is that we must be “slow to anger.” There is such a thing as righteous anger and we are not told to never be angry – we are to be slow to anger. I must never confuse my anger with God’s. I must also be aware that my angry response will not change my or another person’s heart. Those who know me well know that I am capable of responding harshly to those whom I differ with strongly. I often need that reminder of verse 20; ” for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Well, those are the words from God that I needed to hear this day. Perhaps you needed them also. If not, you will find what you need this day in the Bible. Be sure to spend some time there.