Good morning Summit Family!
As the first-fruits of all God created, we not only have the responsibility to display the characteristics of God, but we have the joy of being able to demonstrate those characteristics of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering, wisdom, knowledge, etc.
It should not be a surprise that James immediately provides an example for his readers to consider. Keep in mind the primary theme of his letter is growing a mature/complete faith. The growth of our faith will occur as we persevere through the trials of life. I have been amazed at how often the trials of life tempt me to become angry and often invoke within me the desire to “give people a piece of my mind.” (And those of you who know me well, know that I don’t have a lot of “mind” to give away 😊!)
James shares this exhortation: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
James has just shared with his reader the good news about God’s perfect gifts and his unchanging character probably because our own emotional condition is subject to constant shifts. Those shifts can occur quickly in light of the circumstances (trials) we experience.
He begins these verses by saying: “Take note!” I think he wants us to take note of the fact that we ARE God’s first-fruits. If we are, then we will remember that we are an offering to God, the best of the “crop” and those who will remember his promises, which SHOULD impact the way we respond to life’s circumstances. James is encouraging this reader to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
We should ask ourselves: Quick to hear what? He is going to answer that question in verse 21. We will expand on that tomorrow, but for now it should be safe to conclude that we should be quick to hear the Word of God. We shared yesterday that Matthew recorded the words of Christ regarding “listening” to the Word. “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) It is with “listening” to the Word that we are instructed on how to live our lives. “I have hidden Your Word (listened) in my heart that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 1119:11)
The discipline of being a good listener can also be applied practically in our daily interaction with others. Solomon spoke of the wisdom of being a good listener: ‘To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:13) “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.” (Proverbs 19:20)
James also encourages his readers to be slow to speak. James knows the value that comes from taking the time to reflect on how we respond verbally to the trials of life. I must confess that more often than I would like to admit, I have spoken before taking the time to listen and think through a situation. Those are the times I have found I most likely need to retract my statements! Again, Solomon provides great wisdom in this regard: “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.” (Proverbs 13:3)
James then completes verses 19 and 20 by sharing with his readers that we should be slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
King David knew about the mercy of God in regard to His anger. In 2 Samuel 24, after ordering a census of his fighting men, David realizes that he has sinned against God. I would suggest the sin was in taking the census because it was a statement that David was putting his faith in the size and strength of his army as opposed to putting his faith in God. David admits his sin and asks God to take away his guilt. He is given three discipline options: three years of famine, three months of fleeing from his enemies while they pursed him, or three days of plague. Here is David’s response: “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” (V14) David knew that human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
Think about how often you may have responded in anger, saying or doing something that you later regretted? James knows that the greater the trial, the more intense the season of tribulation, the greater the chance that we will respond in a way that does NOT demonstrate the character of God. However, since the primary purpose of this letter is to result in our having a mature/complete faith, that maturity should be demonstrated in how we speak, and respond and how we process our anger. Paul shared this exhortation: “In your anger do not sin; do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26)
In closing allow me to share a quote that has made an incredible impression on me: “The great talker is rarely a good listener, and never is the ear more firmly closed than when anger takes over!”
Great food for thought! See you tomorrow!