Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger: For the anger of man works not the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)
The book of James is widely agreed to be written by James the brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Understanding of the scriptures revealed that Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in him until he resurrected. A large number of the Christians had left Jerusalem and had gone to live in other countries after the ascension of Jesus and during the persecution of the early church. But the apostles and leaders of the church did not go. So, these Christians no longer had the day-to-day contact with their leaders. James wrote to help them. He wrote to encourage them to live as Christians should, in the places where they now lived.
James addressed alot of issues in his letter. A microscopic view on two verses from the book is here presented. Our sense of hearing, act of speaking and our emotional disposition of being angered is addressed.
It is important to understand that as Christians, we do not live a life of isolation, humans like every other organisms must interact with the environment in order to adapt to every situation. Our interactions must lead us to communicate, hear alot of things including things that one don’t want to hear. After hearing, the tendency to respond to what have been heard is high and sometimes our emotions seems agitated therefore we get angry in most cases to save our pride. This is the human aspect of every man. Paul had cautioned in Galatians 5:16 that we “walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” The flesh must therefore be consciously controlled so that the Spirit will take the lead over us. The principle given by James is worth accepting as realistic and practicable so that the ideal christian can be an ambassador of the word of God with attention given to the phrase “let every man” as used in verse 19.
THE WISE COUNSEL
1. Be swift to hear: the sense of hearing is very Paramount to every organisms little wonder man and most mammals possess a pair of ear. Even some organisms (Bats for examples) possess Echolocation (Bio sonar). They have the ability to locate objects using emitted sound. Many of such organisms have either poor or no special organ for vision. The point here is, sounds have the ability to create images in our mind as human. James advices that we should be swift (quick) to hear. It is observed that many people are not swift or patient when it come to hearing. Many try to form full impression without getting to the “prime” of the discuss. Just the “crust” and they jump into conclusion. The sense of hearing demand a patient listener.
The Greek word “akouō” from which “hear” is translated also refers to the act of attending to and considering what is or has been said. It means that hearing is beyond what has been said but also involve the process of giving consideration or thought to what was said. So as much as you pay attention to hear and get information, James is also advising that you spend time to give thought to what have been said before taking any action. I am sure the process of giving thought to what was said should lead you to go to God in prayers to determine the mind of God concerning what you have heard and seeking for the best way to act upon it.
2. Be slow to speak: base on different human temperaments, our tendency to speak varies. But here is a general advice that all men should be slow to speak. “Bradus” is the Greek word used here for slow. Metaphorically, it connote being dull and inactive in mind. People may even label such a person as being stupid. Such a kind that Jesus exhibited during his trial when being questioned. Slow to speak to the extent that those questioning him became embarrassed. Children of God are Kings in their own right and Kings do not speak anyhow. Children of God are also priests and priests do not speak till they hear from the power they proclaim. We owe God our allegiance and ought not to speak till we hear from God. What seems hard here is that many Christians do not hear from God or don’t know how to hear from God. Some conclude that God do not speak anymore and when they hear someone say he heard from God they do not believe. God is still speaking and He wants His children to hear His voice for themselves. Many run after Prophets and some have been led astray because they want to hear what God is saying from someone else. It is not wrong to hear prophesy, but I think it is best when the prophesy is confirming what God have told you already. Let your hearing be more than your speaking.
It is also a fact that when you talk too much, avoiding lies and sinning becomes difficult. Your words should be precise and truthful. That way your words become profitable to your listener(s).
3. Be slow to wrath: the word translated slow have been examined above and the same meaning is applicable when it comes to being disposed to applying wrath. Wrath is from the Greek “orgē” and it represents anger, agitation and any violent emotions. In agreement to other scriptures, this shows that man can be moved to get angry. Anger itself may not be sinful but what you do when angry can be sinful. I am sure you must be reflecting about Jesus getting angry at those who turned the temple to a place of merchandise. Wrath should be rare in christian community. The reason is stated in verse 20. Human wrath is indirectly proportional to God’s righteousness. Truly human wrath do not achieve any positive goals but it create an atmosphere of unnecessary tension and conflict. Conflict is never a progressive adventure, it always bring backwardness and loss. If the principle of slowness can be applied to human wrath, it will be quenched before it get to the hight of causing damage. Do whatever it will take to stop it before it gets out of hand. It may mean you turning the other cheek to receive another slap, be labeled as a fool, be hurt, hissed upon etc. Take it with humility so that God will exalt you.
Conclusively, the wise words of Apostle James should be imbibed by all Christians. This is only practicable with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reside in a clean vessel who have surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. Follow the process so that you can have a profitable life.
1. Let God give you the needed patience to be a good listener.
2. May you not say words that will put you into trouble.
3. Deliverance from the spirit of anger.