James’ Challenge

1My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.   James [1:19]-20

James has always been one of my
favorite books of the bible. Each verse seems to contain some type of practical
advice for living a life more representative of Christ. Maybe it’s just because
I’m a man and I need to be told exactly what to do and how to do it. Although
it is one of my favorites, it’s one of the most challenging as well.

Looking at these verses, James gives some very straightforward advice. It can be broken down into three suggestions:

  1. Be quick to listen.
  2. Be slow to speak.
  3. Be slow to become angry.

 

So simple yet so difficult to master. It seems like we are
taught from a young age that we should strive to be the first to give an answer
in school or the first to give an opinion on something (and you have to have a
strong opinion on everything. But that’s a lesson for another day). In a world
dominated by social media, we crave the instant gratification of one of our
posts getting a lot of likes, shares, and comments from those that agree with
us. None of these are bad things, but James might have recommended a different
approach.

I don’t believe it was an accident that James listed these three actions in the order that he did. Being quicker to listen to those around us will lead to a person being slower to speak. If I take time to really listen to a person and not try to form a response while they are still talking, it gives me more time to comprehend the issue and give better thought to a response. Next time you are speaking to someone, try to analyze whether you are genuinely listening or just trying to come up with the next thing you want to say.

 

Looking at the issues in our country, I see a lot of anger. Most of what I see is two sides with opposing views attempting to yell over each other to get their point across. I think James’ words could be put to good use in these situations. Imagine turning on the news and seeing an open dialogue where people actually listened to each other and responded. This might reduce the amount of anger and bring some understanding to the situation even if they still don’t agree.

 

It’s difficult to listen to someone you disagree with and not respond quickly or in an angry way. Why should we even bother? Well James finishes these verses stating that our “anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Anger has been proven to be an effective tool in the rarest of circumstances. God generally desires for us to live in peace with one another. Perhaps if we follow James’ advice and listen more intently and respond more thoughtfully, we can live a life closer to what God desires for us.

Walt Howard