Quick to Hear, Slow to Speak, and Slow to Anger – by Brady Tarr
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.“ (James 1:19-20)
When I read the above verse about being quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, it seems like I often try to read over it quickly in an attempt to not let myself think about how often I fail to do what it says. I think that honest Christians will admit that when they read this verse they are convicted by the specific memories or the tendency they have to do just the opposite of what it says by being slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to anger.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take me long to recall specific instances that I have disobeyed this verse.
Please take a couple of minutes to think about James 1:19-20 with me. It is first important to note that James is speaking to believers. Evidence for this can be found in verse 19a when he says that he is speaking to “my beloved brothers” and in James 2:1 when he says “My brothers” who “hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”.
Christians are to seek to readily obey this verse by reacting to a conflict calmly by hearing/listening rather than speaking. James does not tell us to listen to others before speaking simply because it is polite to do so. The hearing that James commands is a purposeful hearing that is designed to result in a wise response that is free from haste and anger. A wise response is one which is thoughtful, loving, and biblically driven. The result of a quick and angry response is almost always sin.
A good bit of wisdom to remember from the book of Proverbs that applies to many different situations that we face on a daily basis is Proverbs 15:1-2: A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. This passage, along with James 1:19-20, from Proverbs applies to our friendships, marriages, communication with our employees or with our bosses, with strangers, etc.
There are 3 things that are noteworthy in verse 20. First, it is significant that it begins with the word “For” because it indicates that this verse gives the reasoning that lies behind the exhortations in verse 19. Second, the “anger of man” which this verse refers to is to be understood as an anger that is centered around the glory of man instead of a good anger that is centered around the glory of God. Third, James says that a failure to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger does NOT produce the righteousness of God, but instead dishonors God.
The phrase “produce the righteousness of God” simply means to do that which is pleasing to God. James’ point in vs. 20 is to note that human centered anger is always sinful because it does not produce behavior that is pleasing to God. What kind of response does produce the righteousness of God? As I mentioned in verse 19, a response that is thoughtful, wise, loving, and biblically driven is a righteous response that is pleasing to God.
In light of the fact that many of you who read this devotional are attorneys whose livelihood depends on the wisdom and persuasion of the things that you say, the application of these verses will not only help you obey God, but they will also help you be more effective and honorable as an attorney.
If Christians humbly receive and follow the exhortations found in this passage, times of conflict will be dealt with in a way that brings glory to God. The temptation to participate in the sins of the world is and will continue to be a struggle for every Christian. Christians must rely on God and his Word in order to be successful in their fight against sin.
When we are sinned against and feel ourselves getting angry, we must seek to respond with wisdom in a righteous manner instead of responding quickly with anger. Yes, this is hard and takes self-discipline which should remind us to pray regularly for God to help us do what is difficult and be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. We must always keep in mind that God responds to our daily sin against him with mercy, love, patience, compassion, etc., and we must seek to have the same reaction toward those who sin against us.
If you have sinned against someone lately by responding to them quickly and with anger, please consider humbling yourself before God and that person by asking both parties to forgive you for sinning against them. Yes, this is a hard and humbling thing to do, but please remember that Jesus Christ, who died a very hard and humbling death, commands us to confess our sins.
One who genuinely repents of a sin is forgiven for that sin. Without the forgiveness of God which only comes through genuine faith and repentance there is no hope for sinners like you and me. Salvation is a one time event, but because of the captivity of our sinful bodies we must continue ask God to forgive us when we sin against Him and others. Join with me in praising God for his forgiveness! What a kind and gracious God we serve!
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