Jamesby Douglas Estes
Again, James starts his next bit of wisdom with an attention-catching, ″Take note, dear Christians!″
Of what are we to take note? James fuses three significant proverbial ideas from the Old Testament and Jewish literature into a summary statement for those following the wisdom of God: ″Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry″ (James 1:19). These three ideas-quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger-are of prime importance in much of James' experience with living a godly lifestyle. Let's consider each of them in turn.
First, James challenges us to make haste with our listening and not with our speech. As we go through life, there will be many times when someone says something negative, inflammatory, or condescending, and our natural tendency is to be very quick to respond-similar to ″an eye for an eye″, we are quick to give a hurtful remark for a hurtful remark. God's wisdom, however, tells us to jump to listen rather than jump to speak (see Proverbs 29:20; Ecclesiastes 5:2).
Second, when we do speak, we should pause and measure our words carefully. If we are to do as Jesus asks and really love people as God does, then we must consider how our words can show love and respect to others. Even when our words need to be strong, if we slowly think them through first, we will be far more effective at producing good fruit through them.
Third, as a result of being quick to listen, we will become slow to speak, and thus slow to anger. The anger James refers to is likely the kind that simmers and boils, encouraging retaliation against others.
While James did not mean this as a step-by-step process for living wisely, these ideas are closely related. Once a person turns to anger, the attitude it creates in his life is hostile to godliness (James 1:20).
Curiously, James writes ″therefore″ to show that verse 21 is the correct response to the problem of anger. He tells believers to get rid of all ″moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent″, and to accept the Word of God that has taken residence in our hearts-the Word that saves us, both from our sinfulness in general and our day-to-day struggle with anger specifically. We are to take note of this to grow in our faith and continue in wise living!
What are some ways in which we can practise being ″quick to listen″ (James 1:19)?
How can anger damage our lives?