Have you ever said something out of anger that you wished you could have a “do-over” and had given yourself time to think before you spoke? I think most of us have!!
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is from James, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
This verse always reminds me of “stains”, spiritual stains that occur when we do not abide by this verse, quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger; Stains that hurt us and hurt other people. Spiritual stains can cause others to see us as not being the Christian we are trying to reflect.
The verse is very clear in saying that you should first listen before speaking or becoming angry. Seems easy enough, don’t you think?
Have you ever wondered if Jesus ever got angry? There are several instances in the Bible when Jesus became angry. In Matthew 21: 12-13, Jesus was angry at all who were buying and selling in the temple, and in Mark 3: 5, synagogue of Capernaum, he was angry over the Pharisees’ lack of faith. His anger was pure and completely justified because it was concern for God’s holiness and worship.
There are sometimes good reasons to get angry, but I believe James is reminding us to consider these reasons carefully and not to “fly off the handle” as that kind of anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
The virtue of listening before speaking, and took me several years to learn! When you are speaking you are not listening, not only to other people but also not to the Lord. This brings about several of my favorite verses, Proverbs 10:19 – “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Or, Proverbs 12:18 – “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” And, Proverbs 13:3 – “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.”
Is James saying that anger is wrong? I don’t think so. It is an emotion that we can not help, but we can control. Anger, as many of us know, can lead to sin and evil. Words might be spoken that can tear down a relationship in seconds.
Saying “I’m sorry” does not always turn around the words said out of anger. Sometimes listening and hearing the other person’s point of view helps us to see other ways to handle a bad situation. Remember these verses?
Proverbs 14:17a – “A quick-tempered man does foolish things,”
Proverbs 29:22 – “An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.”
Anger accomplishes nothing positive in either person.
I think James is saying that what you do not say is more important than what you say. Your actions speak louder than your words.
It has taken me over 50 years to realize that the “good life” is not succeeding in a career, taking expensive vacations, driving the latest sports car, or having money in the bank. All these things are great, but it is not the “good life”.
The “good life” is peace of mind. Knowing that I was considerate of others, that I stood by faithfully when the chips were down financially, that I teach at Church to maybe make a difference in a child’s life, that I sponsor a child in poverty to make her life a little easier, that by studying Gods word, I have learned to forgive, and to let my love for the Lord shine in the midst of everything I do.
I still can’t help but ask the question, “Why did it take me so long in life to realize how simple life really is?”
Remember, quick to listen, slow to speak and even slower to anger. This will bring you rich soil in which to grow.