“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. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” James 1:19-21 ESV
Before his death, James wrote a letter to tell scattered and persecuted Christians that faith and works are not mutually exclusive but go hand-in-hand. The epistle also gives instruction on self-control: “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. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:19-21).
If social media is any indication, we believers are not heeding this passage. With all that is going on with Covid-19, racial tensions, protests, riots, and various natural disasters, it is no wonder that many of us feel on edge. But James didn’t put a qualifier in this verse. He said we all should be quick to hear and slow to speak and slow to get angry. If ever there was a time to hush and listen, it is now.
Are we willing to stop and listen to find out why our neighbor is hurting? Are we willing in the middle of these massive societal issues to stop and open our hearts and listen to one friend whose plight or perspective can make it personal for us?
When someone wrongs me or pushes my buttons, I’m usually very quick to come right back at him. This moment, right now in America, could not be a worse time to continue that bad habit. As believers, we should start listening past others’ hurts to hear the heart behind the hurt. We need to learn to discipline our tongues and bathe our responses in Scripture.
We should ask, “God, search my heart. Why am I about to say this? What is my goal? Am I about to says this or post this because I’m offended and mad, or is it because I truly want to point people to Jesus and see people come together?”
Most of us have heard or read the first part of this passage in James. It’s practical, makes sense, and resonates with all believers, but sometimes we skim right past verse 21: “Receive with meekness the implanted word.”
James tells us to do what we already know to do. In other words, stop coming to church looking for some new thing. A lot of folks struggle with this. We want some new, deeper idea or approach. We need someone to discover a new book of the Bible so we can be interested again. James says that if believers would obey what’s already been planted in us through God’s Word, we’d be squarely in the middle of God’s will. And we wouldn’t have enough room in our churches every Sunday.
Then comes the familiar Verse 22: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
As you pursue Christ with your whole heart by loving him, his Word, and other people in his name, you become more like him. That is the beautiful simplicity of the gospel. The words we say are the overflow of our hearts. May we so saturate ourselves in God’s Word and so practice the presence of his Holy Spirit that we listen and speak with one motive: to show a lost and desperate world its only hope is the Jesus we know.
As you read James 1:19-21, in what current circumstances do you need to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger?
Have you ever found yourself being “bored” with church or with God’s Word? Are you receiving with meekness the implanted Word and doing what you already know to do, or do you struggle with wanting something new to maintain interest in your spiritual walk? How do you sense God is asking you to respond?