Making the World a Better Place
Updated: Apr 1, 2020
When I first started preaching, I wasted my first year trying to fix people until I realized that wasn’t my job. That’s what God does, and that’s what His Holy Word does, if we will humble ourselves. God’s Word can only help, change, fix or guide us if we hear the message and obey the principles. Otherwise, we are missing the point. All of Scripture is amazing and valuable, but it is a wonderful and profound discovery when we find one or two verses that could really change the world around us. Our next two verses in James are exactly that.
James 1:19-20 says, “19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Talk about changing the world. One of the most difficult problems in humanity is our problem with communication. Up until now, James has been focusing on enduring tribulation and being thankful. He is summing these thoughts up here as he concludes with “So then.” He addresses this summary to his “beloved brethren.” He is speaking to other believers in Christ who he loves greatly. He is addressing a problem: communication, or lack thereof between believers.
His first bit of advice is to listen quickly. That is not just a problem for a few people back then. It is a problem for all people, both back then and today. How hard is it to get someone to listen to you? We blame a lot of things on cell phones because that is where most people focus these days. But, before that they would just look off in the distance or zone out. The Army taught me to repeat back communications either exactly or in a paraphrase to ensure the message was properly sent. It is called active listening. It is just letting someone know that they are being heard and understood. We need to care enough about the people speaking to us to give them our undivided attention.
Second, James advises us all to be “slow to speak.” We must guard our words and choose them carefully because once they are spoken, we cannot take them back. We are so eager to let people know what we think that we don’t even let them finish sharing their thought, before we start formulating our response. One person recently told me that we “listen to speak” instead of “listening to understand.” If we don’t thoughtfully consider our responses, we can do great harm to those we actually care about. I have known many people in my life who speak much less frequently than most, but when they do speak, you know it is worth hearing.
Finally, James instructs us to be “slow to wrath.” Wrath and anger seem to be behind all of the political and relational problems. Anger is what’s called a secondary emotion. It is secondary to fear, frustration, and hurt. God tells us over and over in His Word not to be afraid, and if we are give it to God. Our frustrations come when things don’t go our way. But, we have to remember that His ways are not our ways and His ways are infinitely better than our ways. Then there are the hurts of the past and present. God sees and know what hurts you. He may or may not take away the hurt, but He will certainly walk with you and hold you through the hurt. If we don’t understand and attack these three causes of anger, we will look much like the world around us-angry. Wrath is God’s territory and not ours. Never in our anger can we produce God’s righteousness.
So Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let’s all seek to be seek to listen a little sooner today than we did yesterday. Let us seek to take time to pray about what we say before we say it, and if it’s not going to help, we can just keep that thought to ourselves. And, as for wrath and anger, let’s battle the root causes with the Word of God so that we don’t get angry quite so fast. After all, aren’t we supposed to be so much different than those without Christ? We can change the world around us by applying God’s Word to our lives so that we change and influence the Lost, by first allowing ourselves to be transformed by the Word of God. Let’s go make a difference!