James 1:19-20 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (NKJV)
You ever run across Bible verses you dread talking about, or teaching about because you feel like such a hypocrite?
I don’t… I was just wondering if you did. Hah! No, seriously, this verse is particularly difficult for us Type A leader types. If it was written with Brent Riggs in mind, it would say:
“Let Brent be hard of hearing, quick to start giving orders and taking charge, way too impatient…” My poor beautiful wife has been the victim of my quick speaking and slow listening far too often.
There is a lesson we ALL must learn on a continual basis: it doesn’t matter how we feel… it doesn’t matter what our personality type is… it doesn’t matter what our circumstances are… whatever God says is true, we need to obey it, regardless of how it “fits” with us individually. Let’s dissect in exhaustive, microscopic, comprehensive detail what this verse says in modern language we can all understand:
- Shut up and listen
- Don’t get angry quickly
Hmmm… where do I go now after such an extensive exposition of those verses…
Okay, back to being more serious… why does God command this? Simple: our anger does not produce righteousness. What does anger have to do with being slow to speak and quick to hear?
Most of our anger comes from impatience (quick to speak, slow to hear), miscommunication (quick to speak, slow to hear), misunderstanding (quick to speak, slow to hear), selfishness (quick to speak, slow to hear) and pride (quick to speak, slow to hear). Starting to see a pattern?
When we don’t listen, we get angry more often and quicker because we aren’t hearing all the facts, hearing the need, hearing the problem. When we are quick to speak, we don’t give adequate time for understanding, compassion and contemplation making it easier to get angry or respond in a way we will regret.
Notice there is no room for wiggle here: our anger does NOT produce righteousness as a rule. The verse also implies the opposite: if you have trouble with anger, trying shutting up and listening more. Oops, that wasn’t a very kind way to say that, was it? However, the truth remains and we should all evaluate ourselves:
- Are you slow to speak and a good listener?
- Are you easily angered?
- Have you honestly considered that it might be because you too quickly fire up your pie hole instead of taking time to truly listen?
Speaking of pie… my dear neighbor, Miss Dorothy, makes the best chocolate pie. I’m NEVER angry when she comes walking over with one for our family. Maybe the New International Brent Version of the Bible will say “be slow to speak, quick to hear, and eat lots of chocolate pie so you won’t get angry…”
Lord God, help us to be very slow to speak and very patient listeners. And Lord, we give you heartfelt thanks for chocolate pie. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?