My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. ~ James 1:19-20
Explanation of the Text: James often pauses long enough to refer to his readers as ‘My dearly loved brothers.’ I appreciate James’ intimacy with his readers, showing that as he instructs them he does so with an attitude of love and compassion. He is not merely telling them how awful they are as sinners, but he is lovingly drawing them to Christ and his message of the cross.
With that love, James addresses the anger that controls so many people. First off, it is important that believers understand that something man-oriented will not produce something God-oriented. Therefore, no person should have the expectation that his or her anger is going to draw people to God. Therefore, the practical advice that James offers is noteworthy. He gives three simple instructions that when utilized, are capable of defusing situations and people. First, they must be quick to hear. Few can listen intently, respectfully, and fully without interruption and offering personal stories or antidotes. This instruction is in direct opposition to the natural inclination of many people. In conjunction with quick to hear is slow to speak. One cannot be quick to hear without being slow to speak and one cannot be slow to speak without quick hearing. However, he goes further in the instruction to be slow to anger. Ideally, if one has implemented the first two instructional pieces the third should automatically follow.
Examination & Application of the Text: This particular verse strikes a similar sound to the writers of the Proverbs, with its quick and practical advice. I learned long ago that often, the wisest person in the room is the one who speaks the least. This is the type of person who weighs words heavily, both those being spoken to him or her and those he or she speaks to others. Such a person allows time for reflection and comprehension so as to speak directly to the moment at hand with rightly-oriented truth.
Generally, this type of person is one who is quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Such advice allows one to assess the person and circumstance so that one is not reacting to wrong or incomplete information. Additionally, such an activity allows consideration of the words and actions that one will utilize to respond.
As a result, when we are quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, we react not to circumstances, but to people. What’s the difference? Hopefully, we react in love and not in anger because we recognize the people involved. When our attitude is of this nature, we maintain control of the circumstance and do so without offending others.
Questions to Consider:
- Are you prone to respond in anger?
- Think of a recent circumstance in your life in which you responded quickly in anger, and lacked the quickness to hear and slowness to speech. What was the result?
- What does it mean to put into practice quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger in your life? Be specific in your answer and develop an action plan.