How fast is your anger? Does it strike as fast as lightning? Do you speak before you’ve listened to everything you could hear?
I’ve been reflecting on James 1:19-20 the last few days. It states, “19 [u]This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”
Honoring God around people
In striving to honor God more daily, I know that includes honoring Him in all of my interactions with people. I’ve made it more of a habit to not speak until someone is finished with what they’re saying. I avoid reacting with anger if I hear something that gives me a feeling of immediate disapproval. I can say along with achieving the righteousness of God, it’s helped me to feel more peaceful in life. It’s helped me to be better at communicating with others. And an added bonus, most people tend to really like people who let them talk more. Other verses in scripture have echoed a similar sentiment to James 1:19.
Proverbs 10:19 “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.”
Proverbs 14:29 “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.” (interestingly the next verse after that stated, “A tranquil heart is life to the body, But passion is rottenness to the bones.”)
Proverbs 17:27 “He who restrains his words has knowledge, And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.“
James 1:19 Context
But let’s dig deeper into the context of James 1:19. Prior to this verse James was stressing that good things and perfect gifts come from God. We were made firstfruits among His creatures by the Word of Truth. The verses after James 1:19 mention putting aside filthiness, wickedness, and receiving the word with humility. We have filthiness, wickedness, and a lack of humility receiving the Word tied with being quick to speak, quick to anger, and slow to listening.
As we read further, it’s interesting that being a doer of the Word is mentioned in the next few verses. If you’re not being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger, you’re not being a doer of the Word. James goes on to express that the effectual doers of the Word will be blessed in what they do. We hinder our own blessings in life by not doing these things. James makes a final emphasis on this point by expressing that one’s religion is worthless if they can’t bridle their tongue.
He contrasts that with visiting widows and orphans in distress, and not being stained by the world. I kind of wonder if that connects back to the word filthiness, and if that would connect with what’s stated in Ephesians 5:4, “And there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”
The Greek word used for filthiness is “aischrotēs“, which means shamefulness, obscenity, baseness, dishonor. In following with the meaning, perhaps we’re to avoid speaking words in a way that’s dishonoring and obscene towards others. When you think about it, that tends to be the things that come out of our mouth when we let anger control our tongue first.
Peace to you all in Christ.