James 1:19–20 (ESV) … “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.”
Be swift to hear! The Word of God is more necessary to us than our food. It is more precious than gold. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. We cannot live properly without the Word of God!
How very eager we should be to read it and hear it taught! Nothing, absolutely nothing, should be more important to us than taking it in!
But our age will not go down in history as ‘the age of hearing’. Adlai Stevenson once opened an address to students at Princeton with these words: ‘I understand I am here to speak and you are here to listen. Let’s hope we both finish at the same time.’ But the truth is, a lot of church attenders get through listening long before the pastor gets through preaching.
Part of it is due to the short attention span created by the media. Another part of it is that we are largely lazy and undisciplined. Yet another part of it is that we are constantly encouraged on every hand to talk. The thinking seems to be that if we talk enough, we will come to discover important truths. But the greatest part of it is that we do not prize the Word of God as we should.
Be slow to speak! The worship services of those days often featured people interrupting the speaker to share their own ‘insights’. And sometimes those ‘insights’ were ‘outsights’—out of touch with reality!
But there is another way in which we need to be slow to speak, namely, to ourselves. In other words, when the Word of God is being declared, we must be on guard against the tendency to be inwardly raising objections.
Be slow to anger! When the Word of God is accurately preached, we will often find that it hurts. It is a sword that pierces and cuts (Heb. 4:12)! How do we respond when this happens? Do we become resentful and combative? If we allow anger to come in, the Word of God will not come in!
Some fail to appropriate the Word of God because they are angry at the one who is delivering it! Perhaps they have seen a flaw in him. Or perhaps they disagree with something he has done in leading the church. Those in this category would do well to heed James’s word about being slow to anger.
What searching words James has given us! These are days in which the tendency is to be slow to hear, swift to speak and swift to anger!