Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19
On one side of the street a homeowner displays in his yard a giant blow-up bald eagle draped in a US flag. A big truck sits in the driveway. Its side window features a painted flag and the back bumper is covered with patriotic stickers. Directly across the street in a neighbor’s yard are signs that highlight the slogans for current social justice issues in the news.
Are the people in these homes feuding or friends? we might wonder. Is it possible that both families are believers in Jesus? God calls us to live out the words of James 1:19: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Too often we stubbornly hold on to our opinions and aren’t willing to consider what others are thinking. Matthew Henry’s Commentary has this to say: “We should be swift to hear reason and truth on all sides, and be slow to speak . . . and, when we do speak, there should be nothing of wrath.”
Someone has said, “Learning requires listening.” The practical words from God in the book of James can only be accomplished if we’re filled with God’s loving Spirit and choose to respect others. He’s willing to help us make changes in our hearts and attitudes. Are we open to listen and learn?
How does God want you to put James 1 into practice? Whom might you need to listen to and hear?
You know me, God. I can be opinionated sometimes. Help me to be quick to listen and slow to speak.
Writing to believers in Jesus who were “scattered among the nations” (James 1:1), James offers practical instruction on what a life lived for Christ looks like. He covers attitudes, such as favoritism and love of money (2:1–12; 5:1–6); and actions, such as giving to the needy and patience in suffering (2:14–26; 5:7–11).
In today’s reading, James 1:19–27, the author puts together a bit of an encouragement sandwich. In verses 19–21 and 26–27, he gives specific examples of how to live righteously: keep one’s temper in check; keep a rein on one’s tongue; take care of the needy. The meat of the sandwich is in the middle section (vv. 22–25), where James explains that the ritual of hearing (or reading) Scripture isn’t enough to lead to the righteousness that God desires. We need to obey what it tells us to do.