James 1:20

Thursday, 20 June 2019

…for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:20

James had just said that believers should be “slow to wrath.” He now explains this beginning with, “for the wrath of man.” In the Bible, the idea of wrath is found numerous times; quite often wrath is ascribed to God. His anger is said to rise, and it is then worked out in His correction of what brought about the wrath. But, the wrath of God is a result of His just, righteous, and holy character. There is nothing arbitrary or vindictive about it. In fact, in understanding the nature of God, we see that God doesn’t change. He doesn’t “get” angry in the way we think. Rather, it is man who changes in relation to Him, and that results in His corrective action.

However, man is not like God. He goes from one state to another. And such a change in man is often fraught with problems. Man can get angry over a lack of food, too much constant noise, by being needled by another, etc. At times, he can go from holding back his anger to a sudden outpouring of it without having given any clue that he was angry in the first place. His wrath can also be vindictive and arbitrary.

In such demonstrations of emotion, James says that this wrath “does not produce the righteousness of God.” When God’s wrath is displayed, it is because His law is violated. It is given to correct this. When man’s wrath is displayed, it will often cause a violation of God’s law. Thus, the exact opposite result is seen at times in man in comparison to that of God. In man’s wrath, God’s righteousness is not produced. Instead, it is further violated. What is being spoken of here is not an increase in God’s righteousness, as if God can be affected by our actions, but rather it is speaking of a decrease of His righteous character in the one who displays wrath. God remains unchanged through the process.

For this reason, man needs to be “slow to wrath.” We are to display wrath only in a controlled way, and only when it will cause us to reflect God’s righteous character.

Life application: Generally, people who fail to listen and are quick to speak are also the type to burst into anger more readily. That may be because they want to control the situation with their words and when they can’t, the next step is to blow up in anger.

But James says (and which is painfully obvious to those around such a person) that this doesn’t bring about a righteous life. In fact, it normally demonstrates just the opposite.

When two people are debating an issue, the one who is calm and even normally (but not always) has the proper view on the matter. The one who is excited and verbally abusive normally doesn’t have a leg to stand on and therefore he can only defend his position in this way. The language and actions belie any sense of righteousness or godly character.

To see this type of discourse close up, just turn on the news and watch two people debate a political issue – one will be from the left and one from the right. When one of them starts fidgeting, elevating his voice, making unwarranted accusations, and even becoming angry, that person is most likely attempting to defend an indefensible position and is also not living out a righteous life (at least at the moment) which God desires.

By watching people behave this way, we can learn what not to do – but be careful you don’t get yourself sucked into the conversation and start yelling at your TV! When you engage in conversation, listen a lot, speak a little, and avoid ungodly anger. By doing so, you will demonstrate wisdom in your interactions.

Lord, You know what pushes our buttons and also those things which cause us to lose our cool. Give us wisdom when we speak so that we might not sin against You with our mouths. Help us to have salt in our speech and a gentle attitude towards those we may not agree with. This we pray so that You will be glorified, and that we will have peace in our conversations. Amen.

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