James 1:19-21 – Quick to Hear, Slow to Speak, Slow to Anger

Recall the attributes of God— emphasized in last Sunday’s passage: 1) He does not change; 2) He is good; 3) He is Sovereign. James focused on the nature and ways of God.

In today’s passage, James focuses on giving instructions as to practical Christian Living:

  1. Swift to hear”= quick to listen, meaning to be always more willing to listen, to understand, to attend to, to consider what has been said, to comprehend what you hear. Recall the true story of when Jesus walked on the water— the disciples were terrified, thinking they saw a ghost. “They were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” This is an example of times that we hear and see but do not understand, when our hearts “are hardened.” Pray for understanding, to be ready always to listen to comprehend! 
  2. Slow to speak”— (interesting note—the Guinness Book had recorded the world’s fastest talker to be able to articulate 586 words per minute—this record was broken in 1990 at 637 words per minute; then, again, in 1995 at 655 words per minute— 4 times faster than the average person). In the original, “slow to speak” does not refer to the speed at which one can articulate, but refers to the guarding of one’s tongue—that is, to be slow to begin speaking (more on the idea refraining—Prov 10:19, 15:2, 17:27-28). “Men have two ears but one tongue, that they should hear more than they should speak….”  The tendency, though, is that we are more prone to speak than to listen! See James 3 for an in depth discussion about the tongue. As children of God, it is of necessity that we have a ready mind to comprehend with the heart. 
  3. “Slow to anger”—in the context of the prior verses, perhaps this command points to the believer’s possible reaction to be angry when faced with trials or when convicted with the truth. James reminds believers to exercise self-control. A person can be angry, but should be careful not to fall into sin. See Ephesians 4:25-27. Also, note the righteous indignation of Christ for his father’s house. The problem is, in contrast to Christ, we as men are prone to lose control. The reason given for the command to be “slow to anger” is because “the anger of man does not achieve (or produce) the righteousness of God”— a believer’s anger is not conducive to influencing others towards godly living. Consider the command given in 2 Tim. 2:25-26.
  4. “Therefore, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness”— Eph 4:22, Col 3:8, 1 Pet 2:1– “AND receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” There is emphasis here on the living Word that is able to transform our lives! 

May we more willing to be learners of God’s Word. May we apply what we learn. May we live for Christ.

Listen to the sermon here.

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