Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19)
I have chosen a word from the “Fruit of the Spirit” as a goal or challenge to work on for the last seven years. So choosing a very important one for 2021, the complete or perfect one for the seventh year is very appropriate. However this year it is a verse from the Bible. My Scripture challenge for 2021 is James 1:19 which is the title. So what does the Bible say about it? Solomon had a lot to say in Proverbs, a Wisdom book.
In conversations, define terms as each of us may have different understandings. Be comfortable in silence, and pause before you speak. This makes common sense. But you or me need to get the first and last word, then you are a fool Scripture tells us.
When words are many, sin is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19). Do you talk too much? Or are your stories too long. I just returned from a wonderful time with my son and grandchildren’s family in Oregon. I told a story about a near-death experience in Alaska from 1966, which was quite exciting including a plane crash. However with three young boys there I think my 20-minute version may have been too long. “A man of knowledge restrains his words, and a man of understanding maintains a calm spirit” (Proverbs 17:27). I was too excited to speak after my son told a similar story. I am fortunate the boys didn’t leave the table early.
I remember hearing the lesson; “I would have made it shorter if I had more time.” So don’t rush, pause and consider the best way to express yourself. When spoken to, listen, pause, reflect and let others speak first, you may learn something. You don’t need to be first and have the last word too.
How about the last phrase, “and be slow to anger.” I am told this is particularly a challenge for men as we tend to be task oriented and not happy to not know or be able to handle doing something, even though there are specialists, like plumbers and electricians to call who know much more. When we do it ourselves and succeed, great, if not anger may arise and shed on ourselves and anyone else in earshot. The affected are often close family members, which leaves a trail of pain for all. Again Proverbs has a lot to say: “A wrathful (hot-tempered) man stirs up strife, but he that is slow to anger avoids strife or avoids/calms a quarrel” (Proverbs 15:18). Again James has something to say about anger and the tongue of the 278 references in the Bible to “anger.” “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (James 1:26). James also says the tongue can sink ships and burn down forests, along with ruining friendships or relationships. I have personally observed this in negotiations and conversations of all kinds. I heard a comedian once say. “Don’t go to bed angry, stay up all night and quarrel.” Funny, but bad advise. So I am going to make this essay shorter as I have had time to study it.