Today's Verse

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Be Quiet and Listen!: James 1:19-20

I have three children. Each of them is unique. Even when they were babies their personalities were showing themselves evident. For instance. My oldest liked her independence as a baby. She didn't like to be held and cuddled. She cried when I tried. She was happiest sitting somewhere where she could observe and laugh, but not have her personal bubble invaded. My middle one liked to be cuddled. She was still a very happy baby. She just liked Mommy more and liked to be held and loved on. Then came my youngest. No more happy baby. To his credit, there was something wrong with his digestive system that was never figured out. He was an unhappy baby though. He screamed. A lot. I once figured that he screamed about eight hours a day besides some other more normal crying. He did this for about four months. I think it's because of this early exercise of his lungs that he has an amazing ability even now to be unbelievably loud. On top of that he likes to talk. He is a sweet, loving hearted, generous little boy who just has a hard time listening. Therefore, in an attempt to teach him to pay attention to what was coming out of his mouth, I recently taught him James 1:19, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." The verse is not just good for a five-year-old. I find that its truth is frequently a good reminder to me.

We began our study in James contemplating that this book is about the evidences of our faith. We've seen the evidence of our faith in trials. How we count it all joy when we are tried because we know that through the trial we are becoming more like Christ. We are being tested and are being made stronger. Also, we've seen the origins of sin and the wonderful, constant nature of our God. Then we come to James 1:19 which starts out, "Wherefore." You've probably heard the saying, "When you see a 'therefore' in the Bible look back and see what it's 'there for.'" Same thing with 'wherefores.' You look back and see what the author is referring to. So, because we know the end product of our trials. Because we know that sin comes from within. Because we know that God is not the author of evil and has an unchanging nature. Because of all that we've looked at we have three responses. (On a quick side note, don't you love how the author reiterates his love of God's people? He calls the reader "beloved brethren." It's much better than my title which just has the point.)

Our first response according to verse 19 is to be, "swift to hear." Listening seems to have become a lost art. Even when we are talking to someone, too often we are more concerned with framing our reply than with listening to what the other person has to say. Other times we just simply refuse to listen to someone. We have a grievance that is like that splinter in our finger. It's annoying, and it hurts. Then we often become closed, especially to the person who we perceive is at fault in our grievance, and we forget to listen. We even forget to listen to the voice of God. We approach the Word of God with a set idea or preconceived notion and forget to listen to what is really written there. God does not change. The Word of God does not change. The love of God does not change. The Bible is just as powerful today as it was centuries ago. Psalm 46:10 states, "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." We are very familiar with the beginning of that verse. It is interesting to see though that the end of our being still is God's exaltation. Psalm 4:4 also states, "Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah." When we are still we are more apt to listen. To realize that I don't have all the answers. To realize that I need instruction too. To realize that it's not all about me. Listen.

Then we have the natural outflow of listening in the next response. We are to be "slow to speak." If we really listen, then our speaking will already decrease. This response is two fold. We are to decrease the amount of words we speak, and we are to be careful in what words we do say. Consider Proverbs 10:19, "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise." The verse is stating that with lots of words you have sin. Therefore, the person who keeps his mouth closed is wise. Be careful how much you talk. Silence is not a bad thing. Then look at Proverbs 18:21 with me, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof." The tongue has power to death or life, and we see that we are judged according to how we use our tongue. "And they that love it" is speaking to how we love to use our tongue, how we consistently speak. An evil man may use his tongue for good sometime. But the things he habitually says, the things he loves to speak, are evil. He will be judged according to how he loves to speak. A good man may use his tongue for death some time. But it is how he loves to speak, how he habitually speaks, that he will be judged on. Why so much importance on what we say? In Matthew 12:34 Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees, and He tells them, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Our words reveal what is in our heart.

Then thirdly, we should be, "slow to wrath." Wrath -- anger. How quick we are to defend our position. To have an angry zeal for even what we would say is right. What if someone is taking our good and persecuting us for that good? Are we supposed to be zealous is showing them their error and turning them to the right? Are we to be angry at the way we are being misunderstood? Earlier in James we were told to "count it all joy." Matthew 5 tells us we are blessed -- exuberantly happy -- when people persecute us for righteousness sake because our reward is great in Heaven. When I am quickly angry, it is most often because I have only myself in view. I am concerned first with my needs and how they are being met. Even Christ was not quickly angry. Think about the favorite example of Christ running out the money changers from the temple in John 2:13-17. Jesus didn't just go into the temple and see the money changers and then blow His top. He saw the problem, was angry at the sin, and then thought of the proper way to deal with this sin. He stopped and made a small whip. Then he cleaned out the temple. I don't think He even approached this as a deranged madman. Think of a cowboy on his horse driving the herd of cattle in the direction he wants them to go. He is not out of control. He may raise his voice. He may crack his whip. Yet he always has a very specific purpose in every move he makes. He is driving the cattle where he wants them. Jesus had a very purposefully drove the money changers where he wanted them. We see Jesus' control throughout this matter as when He is done turning over the tables and pouring out the money, the Jews haven't called the Roman guards in to arrest this lunatic. They ask Jesus for a sign. They basically ask Jesus to verify His authority for acting in such a way. The best example that we have of anger is the Bible is very controlled. And then think of how many times we have recorded a response of anger from Jesus. Very few, huh. Be slow to anger.

Another reason to be slow to anger is found in verse 20, "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." As a young parent, this verse was very convicting to me. The little hoodlums would get on my nerves and I would want to be short and snippy with them. I was letting my anger control my words instead of letting the Holy Spirit control my words. However, what I most want for my children is that they grow to be adults who love God. Who seek to glorify Him with their whole lives. I want the righteousness of God to shine forth in their lives. This verse convicted me because I saw that my anger would not take them to that place of obedience to God. Think about the other people in your life. Married ladies, think about your husband. You have the opportunity of knowing your husband better than any one else. You know first hand his weaknesses and besetting sin. You pray for him and encourage him, and sometimes you just want to shake him. Are you in the habit of letting him feel the edge of your tongue? Do you apply your anger to him hoping he comes to his senses and straightens up? Your anger does not produce in him the righteousness of God. Your anger will not help him to be more Christlike. Read 1 Peter 3:1-6. Peter was not just talking to women whose husbands were unsaved. This applies to women who are married to men who are saved and simply not living in all areas as they should. It's not our lectures or hurts or anger that is going to bring that husband back, it's our "chaste conversation coupled with fear" (1 Peter 3:2). It's your righteous lifestyle coupled with your proper respect for your husband (Ephesians 5:33).

All these practical responses. Being quick to listen, being slow to speak, and being slow to anger. Is it easy? No. Is it impossible? "With God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).

No comments:

Post a Comment