James 1:19

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; James 1:19

James now enters into a section of exhortation by saying, “So then.” With a very small change in the first word, some manuscripts say, “Know this.” Thus, it would be stated as an imperative. Either way, the intent is that the reader is to call to mind the words of exhortation to follow.

James then repeats his words of verse 16, “my beloved brethren.” Again, as there, he wants to ensure that his words are taken as they should be. They are given in a spirit of love and fraternity towards those who are in Christ. They are intended to spur them on to right thinking and right living.

With that understood, he then says, “let every man be swift to hear.” The old saying that, “you were given two ears but only one mouth for a reason,” applies here. We are to listen to God through His word. We are to listen to others, assimilating what they have to say. We are to even listen to our own thoughts, thinking them over rather than pouncing upon the first thing that comes to our mind.

With that in mind, and as the baseline for what he will next say, James then continues with, “slow to speak.” One should listen first, contemplate what has been said, and only then engage the mouth. Anything less than that will cause a person to put forth words which were hasty and not well thought out. As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes –

“Do not be rash with your mouth,
And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.
For God 
is in heaven, and you on earth;
Therefore let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2

Job was so fed up with the hasty and not well-considered words of his friends that he cried out to them –

“Oh, that you would be silent,
And it would be your wisdom!” Job 13:5

In shutting their mouths, they would prove their wisdom above the babble that they had been spewing forth.

James then finishes with, “slow to wrath.” This could be considered a general guide for the conduct of life, but the intent here is more specific. James is speaking about listening and speaking. Therefore, this is referring to wrath connected with discerning a matter, not specifically being an angry person in general. We are being exhorted to listen to a matter, speak only when we have thought it through, and then to not get angry as we discuss it. He will further define this in the second half of the sentence.

Life application: As has already been noted, James is the closest to a book of wisdom in the New Testament. This is because he uses ideas which permeate the wisdom literature and which are meant for general life guides as well as specific Christian life. In this verse, he mentions three particular ways of conduct:

1) Be quick to listen –

“He who answers a matter before he hears it,
It is folly and shame to him.” Proverbs 18:13

2) Be slow to speak –

“A fool’s mouth is his destruction,
And his lips are the snare of his soul.” Proverbs 18:7

3) Be slow to become angry –

“Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry,
For anger rests in the bosom of fools.” Ecclesiastes 7:9

As you can see, each of these concepts has already been addressed in the Old Testament books of wisdom. Not only is this so, but each idea is brought up several times there. In order to properly understand God’s plan and purpose for our lives in its fullness, it really is necessary to dig into the entire Bible.

If you find reading certain areas of the Bible difficult, then join studies with others who might have less trouble with those particular areas. Also, make sure the church you attend is willing to speak on any subject or book of the Bible. By doing so, you will be a much more rounded believer and also able to handle the trials which arise in life’s walk.

What a wonderfully intricate treasure Your word is, O Lord! Thank You for the wise guidance and counsel You have provided in it. Help us to learn the lessons which it teaches and then apply them to our lives. Help us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. This we pray in the precious name of Jesus. Amen.

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