James is an incredible source of wisdom. It’s very important to remind ourselves that it was written to a believing audience. The book of James teaches us a lot about living out our faith in response to salvation. One writer states, “This book crams 61 imperatives into 108 verses. That means nearly 2.6% of the words in James are imperative verbs. And it’s no surprise: James is a very practical epistle that charges believers with not only hearing the Word, but also acting upon it (Jas 1:22).”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, James is a rough book to study because no matter where you’re at in your Christian walk, it will kick you in the teeth. When you’re a new Christian, it’s easy to cut out a lot of the sin in your life. The further along you get, the more deeply rooted the sin, the more it hurts to cut out. Like a refiner repeating the process of purification over and over, removing impurities each time, so also James will challenge you to take another step toward purity no matter where you are in your walk.
With that said, our passage today hits me especially hard. James will talk about the power of our tongue (our words) more in chapter three. But for now, he introduces the concept with three challenging verses.
James starts by saying, “This you know…” As with many things in the Christian walk, it’s easy to know what to do, but hard to practice. Despite the failure of his audience, James still refers to them as his “beloved brethren,” which illustrates his heart. This kind of compassion is a struggle for some Christians as they observe the sins of others (James has something to say about that in chapter two).
The following statement reminds me of a present I received in college. I had/have the habit of telling “you had to be there” stories. And the joke is that if you tell a bad story you say, “and then I found five dollars” to make it interesting. My friends at one point gave me a five-dollar bill in honor of my storytelling failures. On that bill they wrote a verse that applies to this passage, “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent” (Pr. 17:28).
Basically, being “slow to speak,” is great advice, especially for somebody like me. Just as important as slowing speech is the effort of being “quick to hear.” Listening, and paying attention, and even asking clarifying questions like “What did you mean by that?” or “When you said ________, what I heard was _________,” can do wonders for our relationships and especially our marriages.
Listen quick, respond slow and you’ll see your relationships flourish. Why? Because anger, which is often our rash response, does not promote righteousness.
The “therefore” in verse 21 is, I think, summing up most of chapter 1 and not just our passage today. However, the advice is crucial. Let the Word have its way in you that you may walk in righteousness. Those who have been saved by the shed blood of Christ, must not walk in our former sin and wickedness (this idea is prevalent in the New Testament). Instead, we continually respond to the “implanted Word,” by which God saves people.
How has God challenged you in the book of James so far?
On a scale of 1–10, how much do you need to be reminded to be “quick to hear and slow to speak?” What is one practical step you can take to increase that number?
In the comments, please share a story of a funny instance when you should have been “slow to speak.”
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate