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.
I am a fan of profoundly simple and practical advice. There are plenty of instances in scripture where we are presented with spiritual reality about who we are and who God is, but we’re left to wonder, “But how am I supposed to live in light of this truth?”
James 1:19-20 is crystal clear. In it we are given a practical lens to pass our thoughts and actions through, allowing us to test our thoughts before they become actions.
Be Quick to Hear
This instruction doesn’t just apply to when we’re angry. Learning to listen makes us better missionaries as well. Prayer gives us time to pause when we are trying to slow our responses. We can mentally pray, “Lord Jesus, help me to hear this person rightly.” Misunderstanding is the source of many interpersonal conflicts and frustrations. Check the following references on the importance of listening: Pro. 13:1, 19:20, Ecc. 7:5, 21, Pro. 18:13, 17, 19
Be Slow to Speak
Are you willing to let others be heard? Do you really listen to others, or are you just keeping quiet, waiting on your turn to talk? We should all consider that in our quickness to speak, often this leads to hasty, harsh, untrue words, gossip, and other sins of the heart with the tongue. (See Pro. 12:18, 21:23, 28:23, 15:1, Mt. 15:18)
Be Slow to Anger
How long is your wick? Do you burn slow or explode at the smallest spark? Again, being slow to anger will not happen if you can’t hold your tongue and listen. But doing those things doesn’t guarantee we’ll never get angry, either. Assume that things are going to tick you off from time to time, even if you listen well, and be prepared to ask for the fruit of the Spirit instead of the kindling of your anger. (See Pro. 29:11, 19:11, Pro. 15:18, 16:32)
If we’re honest with ourselves, this is a tall order for all of us. Remember, practical instruction in scripture is an evidence of God’s grace, not a law for us to be weighed down under. God loves us enough to tell us how to live with wisdom. Christians, God loves you in spite of your anger and foolishness because of Christ. Unbelievers, these principles are valid for you, too. But they’re useless a part from Christ. All the conflict resolution improving you can attempt will never truly root out the sin in your heart. For all of us, are deepest need isn’t anger management, it is Christ.
*A word on using this devotional blog. The good stuff is in parentheses. Proverbs is a deep well of practical understanding for our souls. Be sure to reference the texts listed and allow God to speak to you through the power of the word. The subject matter follows along with the current sermon series in James; download each week’s podcast to journey with us.