James 1:19-25

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. 

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. James 1:19-25

This is a tough passage for me. When it comes to talking, I’ve always been a “Ready, FIRE, Aim” kind of guy. I’ve learned along the way that, when I’m listening to others, I really need to focus to actually hear what they are saying instead of just loading up with whatever I’m going to say next. Sometimes I can do that. Sometimes, not so much.

“Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”

In this text, James reminds us to “be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” This is actually a double reminder. A reminder of the importance of action on our part, for it is only our actions, our behaviors, that impact the world.  And a reminder that mere hearing without action is a quick path to self-deception.

When we take the action of slowing down, of active listening, of noticing the anger welling up inside of us, curious to where it is coming from, our best self emerges. When we take care of what smart people call “our side of the street” we are much more capable of being with and for others in a positive way.

Such self-reflection is a healthy alternative to the kind of “quick look in the mirror” that James warns against. “Hearers of the word” look into the mirror seeking self justification. “Doers of the word” look into what James calls “the perfect law, the law of liberty”, that is love.

It leads to questions like: What, in this very moment, does it look like to love my neighbor as I love myself? What is God up to in this moment? What does following Jesus in my life look like right now – and how do I best respond?

James also reminds us that we have been given the gift of “the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.” We are not alone and we are not without guidance. The Spirit will work in and through us…we are free to pause when agitated and seek direction. Direction that will come.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we don’t want to be hearer only. We really do want to be doers of the word. We recognize though how quickly that desire can disappear when we find ourselves in the heat of the moment. Continue to shape us into people who are quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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3 Responses to “James 1:19-25”

  1. Georgene Says:

    Boy, I need to work on this too. Thanks for your thoughts. Good to have you back.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Actions speak more than words! The Word is implanted in us and needs water to grow and blossom.

  3. Steve Leeman Says:

    I never feel good when I talk to someone, and I KNOW they are just waiting for their “turn” to go again. Therefore, I Try very hard to not make someone else feel ignored when they are talking to me. Great reading. Thank you.

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