“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:19-21)
The context seems to be point to our tendency to use God’s Word to control and change others by force, i.e., by means of angry words, instead of focusing on changing ourselves first (Matt. 7:3-5)
1. RESTRAIN ANGER.
(a) Swift to hear. We are quick to judge others, trying to force them to change, maybe because we want to control others and their behavior. But have we ourselves listened carefully to God’s Word so that it changes us first?
(b) Slow to speak, slow to become angry. Human anger doesn’t produce God’s righteousness.
Many are hasty to speak (teach, preach, lecture, scold) (James 3:1). But because we ourselves are unchanged by God’s Word our efforts to change others by means of speaking God’s Word fail. We speak the truth but without love. As a result, we drive people away from God instead of towards him. Our speaking creates resentment but not repentance. We revel in condemnation that does not produce transformation.
Jesus’ way was different – with Zacchaeus, the woman at the well, and the woman caught in adultery.
To be sure, there is a place for righteous indignation and loving rebuke (e.g., Jesus driving out the money changers and Jesus rebuking Peter). We must discern what the situation calls for; but I believe in the majority of cases what is called for is that we deal gently with others (e.g., Nathan with David, and Jesus restoring Peter).
2. RENOUNCE EVIL.
If we use God’s word angrily to force people to change when our own lives are unchanged it does not produce God’s righteousness in the lives of all concerned. We who speak become hardened in our hyprocrisy and those who are spoken to are wounded (sometimes permanently) instead of healed. That’s why it’s very important that our own hearts be cleansed first by God’s Word (Eph. 5:26), lest we unwittingly impart the wickedness of our own hearts (harshness, condemnation, unloving spirit, pride, self-righteousness) to others (Matt. 12:34-37).
3. RECEIVE GOD’S WORD.
We must start with ourselves.
(a) “With meekness.” Before we try to change others, we must humbly admit that it is we who first must change.
(b) “Receive the implanted word.” Humility prepares our hearts to receive God’s Word in such a way that it’s really planted deep where self-righteousness and pride (the roots of anger) can’t touch it.
(c) “Which is able to save your souls.” Then we experience true change: salvation not only from the penalty of sin, but gradually from the power of sin. We are then in a better position to speak God’s Word with life-changing effect to others.
Are we using God’s Word to vent out our pride and self-righteousness or do we really love the people we speak and sincerely desire their healing?
The Lord Jesus himself – the Holy Son of God – dealt gently with poor sinners. Let us do the same, especially since we ourselves are sinners.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4: 15-16)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)
(YT link: https://youtu.be/bVqexwltWb8)
© Dennis M. Cortes 2022. All Rights Reserved.