“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1: 19-20
Great advice! Hard to follow, at least sometimes. I did not grow up knowing Scripture. When I read the above verse in my twenties, I thought, Wow! If I had only read this sooner! I like to think I would have implemented it into my life and that maybe, I would have made some better choices!
When someone says something provocative to you, how do you respond? Depending on who the person is, I may mentally think, ‘oh, that is so-and-so’s view, with which I totally disagree. But, if it is someone I love and respect, I often jump to the defense almost immediately. Thankfully, those I love rarely provoke me, at least intentionally, but we are all human and it happens.
Why should we be ‘quick to listen’? Sometimes, when people speak words, they are communicating more than what their words say. I have learned that provocative words often convey less than the reason behind them, if I can truly listen to the entire situation, and pray about it. Sometimes provocative words are really a cry for help in some fashion. Sometimes, the words are a distraction from another problem someone may not want to address. Sometimes, we just caught someone at the wrong moment at the wrong time.
Whatever the reason behind the words, it is good for us to remember that the reason the words were spoken may have absolutely nothing to do with us. With who we are, what we believe, or emotion tied to the relationship with that person. (It certainly may, but it also may not!)
Becoming offended will not help witness for Christ, and if we become angry, we may sin in our anger, and further hinder the spread of the gospel.
This leads us to the “we should be slow to speak” part of the verse. Again, if we are slow in responding, verbally this time, we have a better chance of controlling our emotions, and not answering with an offensive, off-the-cuff response. If we focus on keeping our immediate response to ourselves, we stand a better chance of thinking our response through, taking time to pray it through, and glorifying God in our words and deeds.
“We should be slow to become angry” There is such a thing as righteous anger, Jesus exhibited it at the temple with the money changers. But, I know I am guilty far more of being personally offended than experiencing righteous anger. If I am personally offended, I need to let those emotions cool, and then speak to the offender, praying it through first. God gave us our emotions, they are not wrong. But, He does not want any of those emotions to lead us into sin. When we are angry, we must not sin in our anger. Not an easy charge, but if we read and practice James 1:19-20, and ask for help from the Father, it is doable.
In the quest for following the Father’s will, we need to remember we are not in this alone! Jesus promised to leave someone to help us: The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will help us accomplish what Christ has for us and will dole out ample portions of the fruits of the spirit, when we ask for help. The fruits of the Spirit are: love , joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22.
Becoming more Christ-like is a life-long process, and we will never attain perfection this side of heaven. But, in our sincere quest, we will draw closer to God as we see His rewards for our obedience. We will also draw closer to Him as we experience more of Him through our prayer time, and desires to obey Him.
And drawing close to Him is the ultimate goal.
1) How does my response vary to provocation, depending on the situation, the person involved, etc? Note any personal patterns.
2) Pray through your discoveries, asking God to help you break any pattern of jumping into an anger-filled response,
3) How can you train yourself to be ‘quick to listen’?
4) Ask a close friend to keep you accountable in your actions and reactions.
5) As you implement the above suggestions, note how God grows you over the next few months. Effort can be painful at times, but ultimately, you will draw closer to God.
Thank you for reading! Please feel free to share how God has helped you train your response in anger provoking situations. Not one of us is perfect, but with Christ, anything is possible!
Also, if you have any thoughts and insights you would like to share from your study of James, I would love to read it! Although a short book, it is filled with wonderful ideas of how to make life on earth more easily managed!
Please return by Monday, September 17, for the next post.