James (Part 5) Listen More, Speak Less, and Stay Cool
I have really enjoyed preparing lessons from the Epistle of James because for me it talks about practical aspects of how to live everyday as a Christian. And the message from James which we will look at today is probably one of the best known passages that James penned; not only by Christians but also by non-Christians as well. Why is it so well know and probably memorized by so many; because it contains simple truths that everyone can understand and appreciate.
Now what verse am I referring to? James 1:19-20 which says, “19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
If you have been following this series of lessons that I have been doing here from the epistle of James; I have been trying to look at the letter from the perspective of James being the stepbrother of Jesus and someone who grew up in the same household as Jesus. Jesus was the older brother and so James probably wrote from a different perspective than other in scripture.
So as we look at and consider this text, I cannot help but wonder if growing up with Jesus led him to this conclusion; that, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
I would like to think that time spent with Jesus led him to this conclusion.
As we discussed before, Jesus and James were part of a sizable family. We know that Jesus had at least four stepbrothers and a number of stepsisters. And if it was like any other family, especially with that many siblings in tight quarters, it probably got pretty hectic and loud at times. Boys will be boys and girls will be girls and so I can’t help but imagine that there were times where there were clashes that happen like in every family from time to time. “Mommy James took my dolly.” “No I didn’t, Jude did.” “Yea Jude, wait till I tell Simon and Joseph that you were playing with our sisters dolly.” “Don’t you dare, I was just looking at how it was made! “ “Give me my dolly, give me my dolly now. Mommy, tell Jude to give me my dolly.”
And then as the years passed by, and all those hormones began to flow, that household probably like so many of our households it had its share of sibling fights and arguments.
But in all that, where was Jesus? Did Jesus argue with His siblings? Probably. Can one argue without sinning? Of course. Some call it a discussion or debate. Sin shows it head when certain attitudes show their head. Arguments become sinful when they go beyond debating and cynical, self centered agendas show their head. Is getting angry a sin? Again it depends on why we are angry, and then what we do once we are angry.
Later we read how Jesus got angry at the Temple and even made a whip and turned tables over, driving out the moneychangers and those selling animals; but He never crossed the line into sinful behavior. He argued and debated with the Pharisees and teaches of the Law. There were times when He even condemned them, yet through it all He did not sin; and again it had everything to do with why He was doing it, and His heart condition.
When we see someone hurting the innocent, or others perverting truth or doing evil it’s not ungodly to get upset and angry about those things. James has much to say about wrong attitudes that lead to fights. In chapter 4 he writes; “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
So back to our verse in chapter 1 where James writes “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Here James instructs how we should live our life in relation to others. He makes 3 suggestions here in this text… (Notice the order… their order is important)
#1. Be quick to listen. I think most argument are the result of someone not listening, or paying attention to what’s going on or what someone says. Too many of us have selective hearing, or we hear what we want to hear and ignore the rest and so we don’t get the whole story. This causes arguments.
How well do you listen? How many times have you heard, “But that’s not what I said.”?
Or how many times do you catch yourself saying, “I don’t remember you saying that.”?
Dale Carnegie who wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People, said that you can make more friends in two weeks by becoming a good listener than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.
I would like to believe that Jesus was a good listener and He did not jump to conclusions or get angry simply because He didn’t take the time to listen. And I believe He’s still listening today.
There are businesses who actually train their employees, Techniques to Improve Listening to others more carefully as they speak. Why, because most of us don’t listen very well when others speak and sometimes it’s critical that really listen carefully.
Now James is telling us that this is important, #1 in preventing arguments.
#2 Then he tells us to be “slow to speak.”
Boy doesn’t this get us into trouble. We just can’t wait to put in our two cents and give our opinion. We are so anxious to share our wisdom that some of us interrupting others as they speak. We are not only bad at listening, we don’t even want to give the other person a chance to speak or complete a sentence. And sometimes what we say does more harm than good.
A guy came to his pastor and said, “Reverend, I only have one talent.” The pastor asked, “What’s your talent? The man said, “I have the gift of criticism.” The preacher was wise and replied, “The Bible says that the guy who had only one talent went out and buried it. Maybe that’s what you ought to do with yours.”
Can you imagine Jesus interrupting or butting in as others shared their thoughts and feelings? I can’t, He loved them too much to do that.
Love? Yes love. Can you think of a greater expression of love than taking the time to listen to a person, and really hear what they have to say, not interrupting them but patiently waiting to share your opinion when they are done, or maybe not even saying anything all?
Do you remember what Paul wrote concerning love in 1 Corinthians 13, he wrote, “4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Sometimes the kindest, most loving thing we can do is let another speak, and let them unload, paying attention to them and just keeping quiet. I like what Solomon wrote in Proverbs 10:19 “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”
The third thing that James tells us in our text is:
#3, That we should be”Slow to become angry, (Why? Because…)20man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
Do people feel like they are walking on egg shells around you because your fuse is so short they never know when you are going to blow up? James is telling us that if you are like, you have a problem and it’s not something that God wants to see in you… especially as a Christian.
You not only put those around you on guard, you also rob yourself of the and peace tranquility you should have because you are always getting angry.
If anyone should have been angry all the time if should have been Jesus; and rightfully so. Look at how we have treated His creation. Look at how mankind treats others. Look at the wars, the crime, the injustice, the neglect; look at how some take advantage of the innocent. If it was you or me we’d probably be a lot like James and John who wanted to call down lightening and zap people. We would have been zapping people left and right in anger because of how they destroy and pervert what is good.
But there was more Love in Jesus than anger. I believe James saw that growing up with Him. I believe Jesus was not only a good listener, I also believe He chose His words carefully and He was slow to anger. He probably didn’t let every little thing set Him off
As James wrote, anger does not produce the kind of righteousness that God wants to see in us. I believe He would rather see love, patience, and mercy than hostile anger in us. Anger closes and hardens our heart. We need to let go of it. If we don’t, we can become bitter a miserable.
Do you have what can be considered a short or hot temper? Ask God to help you in this matter. Picture how Jesus chose the emotion of Love over anger and ask Him to help you do the same. And, if there is a good reason to get angry, be careful not to let it lead to you sin. Two wrongs don’t make it right. A Loving attitude is powerful and more pleasing to God and more important to others.