By Scott Brown
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Waverly
James gives his readers a quick trinity of rules in verse 19 to follow while experiencing trials: don’t get angry, listen hard and speak sparingly only after very careful consideration.
If only I could live up to even this single verse, what trouble I would be spared! I remind myself quite often that God has given me two ears and only one mouth so I should listen twice as much as I speak. The rest of the text unpacks what that might look like.
Slow to anger (James 1:20-21). No man can live righteously in a rage. In fact, we are warned in Proverbs 22 to stay away from those that are too quick tempered so we don’t learn their ways. Emotions are great gifts from God but we must have self-control and not be controlled by our passing feelings. Rather than being led by our emotions in the moment, we are to be led by the Word of God every moment.
Quick to hear (vv. 22-25). We must be quick to hear and obey the Word. What good is hearing if we do not respond to what we hear?
James warns us not to simply hear the Word but to act on it without hesitation or reservation. A steady, full diet of the Word of God causes us to see God more clearly and, therefore, see ourselves rightly as well.
Merely hearing the Word of God is not enough, we must obey. So, let us be more than quick to hear but let us be committed and already submitted to what we hear in the Word of God as we obey without delay.
Slow to speak (vv. 26-2:4). We must seek to be slow to speak but let our words be edifying when we do (Ephesians 4:29).
First, James tells us that anyone who thinks he is religious must first bridle his tongue. By force, he must reign in his tongue and hold authority over it at all times.
Next, he tells us that true religion is to visit the abandoned and forgotten (widows and orphans). Let our tongues ever be stopped from speaking ill but always be loosed in speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.
May the people of God be first to visit, care for, defend, and speak out for the discarded, abandoned, forgotten, despised, and rejected of this world.
Third, notice the illustration James gives. When we start speaking and acting in response to the things of this life, valuing people and things based on this world rather than the next, aren’t we using our words to tear others down rather than build them up in Christ?
Lord, give us power to bridle our tongues that no word might escape our mouths except that which glorifies God, evangelizes the lost, or edifies the Church.
Living a life of obedience to God is hard! We need so much grace but may we, nevertheless, seek with all our might to become quicker to hear, slower to speak, and very slow to anger. May God give us self-control and may we give Him all control.