James 1:19-20 – 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 of God.
From the checkout line magazine rack to radio talk shows to the comments section of that last controversial blog and hard-hitting political opinion television, our culture is saturated and obsessed with expressing the latest rage of the moment. Everyone has an argumentative inner lawyer seated on the throne of their hearts. Whether their angry words are spoken, or simmer under the surface of a calm countenance, we all have fallen into the trap of a loud-mouthed rant.
James has a good word for us: listen up, quiet down, cool your jets, bite your tongue, and walk the talk, which means walk away before you start talking. Otherwise, your religion is worthless.
As someone who has spent a lifetime removing their foot from their mouth, James’ words remind me of a lot of my words that should not have been said. How about you? Any texts, emails, social media posts, voicemails, or conversations that, once you cooled down, you wish you could go back in time and erase?
James instructed Christians how to listen, speak, express anger constructively, be pure and undefiled, and practice healthy self-examination in order to avoid self-deception. One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that our first response is usually in the flesh, and to respond in the Spirit takes a little longer.
To be clear, James is not a coward who is afraid to say hard things, or a flatterer who manipulates people by only smiling and quoting motivational greeting cards. James instructs us on how to avoid turning trials into temptations with his wisdom regarding speech and obedience. If we allow our anger to control us, we will not truly listen to people, and we will sin in our anger.
As Proverbs 15:1 also tells us, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” God’s goal is not that we win the argument, but that we also win the person with whom we are arguing. To do that, we need to watch what we say, when we say it, and how we say it.
Think of a time recently you’ve either reacted in the flesh or the Spirit. Ask God to help you react more in the Spirit and less in the flesh in the future.