“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (Vv. 19-20) James moves from the perspective of faith (1:2–18) to our practice of faith beginning with how we respond to God’s Word and our use of words (V. 26), for what we say and how we say it reveals what’s in our hearts. “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) We must be quick to listen to (and obey) God’s Word and quick to listen (versus talk) to others or “talk back” to God. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Unrighteous anger does not yield or reveal the righteous life that God desires. God is slow to anger and we are called to be like God. Angry pastors, evangelists and fathers have turned many people away from knowing the Father of all compassion and tender mercies. Plus an angry heart is a sign of resentment and a closed heart to God.
“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save (and sanctify) your souls.” (V.21) “This is the one I (God) esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My Word.” (Isaiah 66:2) Like a good farmer we must get the weeds (sin) out before we put the seed (God’s Word) in. Confession and repentance need to be a regular part of our walk with God as we all fall short of God’s glory on a daily basis.
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.” (Vv. 22-24) Hearing God’s Word without obeying it is like a disheveled man looking at a mirror and seeing his unshaven face, tousled hair, and sleepers-filled eyes and yet does nothing to clean up. God’s Word is like a moral mirror for us to look at and examine our souls, our character, thought-life and behaviors. If we’re not changing from glory to glory (slowly but surely) there is a disobedience problem. (2 Cor. 3:17-18) Jesus says His Word makes us holy, cleansing us by the washing with water through the Word. (See Ephesians 5:26)
“But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” (V. 25) We must look intently (Gr. parakyptō; “stoop down and look closely”) at God’s perfect law. This means to study and meditate on God’s Word as an obedient student. God’s law (Word) is not the source of salvation but it is the course for the saved. Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching (obey), you are really my disciples; then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32)
“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (Vv. 26 -27) How do we know we are being doers of God’s Word and not hearers only? James brings this section to some points of application in these last two verses so we can examine our lives to see if we are doers of the Word and not merely hearers.
1. As we hear and obey God’s Word we will have the Holy Spirit’s power of self-control to bridle our tongue. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3:8)
2. As we hear and obey God’s Word we will have the Holy Spirit’s power to be compassionate and especially to the poor and needy and to those who cannot reciprocate like orphans and widows. God reveals Himself as our Father and our Husband in Scripture and caring for orphans and widows reveals His heart of love to them and is a witness to others.
3 As we hear and obey God’s Word we will have the Holy Spirit’s power to keep ourselves unstained by the world. Sin and worldliness (a society without God) often come from small compromises – a slow leak rather than a blowout. “Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.” (Genesis 13:12-13) Sodom is a picture of worldliness. Lot moved into Sodom and Sodom moved into Lot.
Psalm 1 is a good summary of James 1:19-27:
“Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
2 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
4 But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
5 They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
6 For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.”
Until He comes again,
Len and Kristen