Swift To Hear

Let us consider the instruction given in James 1:19-20 “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

“Swift to hear.”  It has been my observation that some people are broadcasters.  By that I mean that they talk a lot and don’t listen much.  They are primarily interested in telling what they believe, what they think, and what they know.  Instead, the first emphasis is on hearing.  That could mean that we truly listen and seek to gather information before jumping to conclusions, accusing someone, or getting angry.  It could mean that we are open to instruction rather than saying things that show our ignorance.  It could mean that we are open and receptive to godly counsel and correction from others.  Proverbs 1:5 “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.” Multiple times, Jesus gave the admonition as in Matthew 13:9 “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”  He wanted the ones He was teaching to hear and understand what He was saying.  The first instruction is to hear and seek to understand.

“Slow to Speak.”  This means that you are slow in giving a response and take time to consider what you say.  Proverbs 29:20 “Do you see a man hasty in his words?  There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  Proverbs 18:13 “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.”  Here is a way to ensure that you correctly hear the other person.  Rather than immediately formulating an answer to what you think the other person said, instead say “Do I hear you say…” and say in your words what you understood him to say.  For any of a number of reasons, you may not correctly understand what he is trying to say.  By getting clarification on what he is saying, you won’t make the mistake of misunderstanding him and responding to the wrong thing.

Perhaps you have seen people arguing over something.  Each person that argues attempts to force what he thinks upon the other person without truly listening to what that person is saying.  Often in an argument, both individuals are talking at the same time because each one thinks that he is right and the other person is wrong.  2 Timothy 2:24-25 “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.”  This describes a gentle, patient, and humble spirit of the Christian.

We, as Christians, need to control our tongues.  James 1:26 “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.”  One typically puts a bridle on a horse so that he can control the horse and so that the horse will not run away with the rider.  In the same way, if one thinks he is a pious person and worships God but he doesn’t control his tongue, he deceives himself.  Proverbs 13:3 “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.”  Proverbs 10:19 “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”   Proverbs 29:11 “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.”

“Slow to wrath.”  Anger is an intense emotional state induced by displeasure.  My observation is that one often gets angry when he feels that his rights have been violated or that things are unjust.  Wrath may be a synonym of anger but often it seems to take anger one step further with a desire or intent to punish or get revenge.  I suppose that every one of us has been angry at one time or another.  Even Jesus was angry at times with people when they were unreasonable (Mark 3:5).   In the description of the characteristics of love, love is not provoked.  1 Corinthians 13:4-5 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil.” “Slow to wrath” implies that it should take a lot of injustice before we finally become angry.  We have already read 2 Timothy 2:24 where we learned that a Christian should be gentle, patient, and humble. 

“The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  If anger or wrath advances to a desire for vengeance, such a desire will not produce the righteousness of God.  We are told that vengeance only belongs to God.  Romans 12:19 “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”  We have additional instruction in Ephesians 4:26-27 “’Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”  Maybe your anger burns within you for what you see as an injustice – but do not take vengeance; let your anger subside by the time that the sun goes down. Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

My encouragement to you is to apply the instruction of James.  James 1:19-20 “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

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