In James 1 verse 19, the Bible says to be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. What do we normally talk about with this verse? Interpersonal relationships, how we interact with one another. We may refer to this and say don’t be a knucklehead, which is Good advice. Stay calm. Close your lips and really listen to the other person. But is that the primary consideration in verse 19?
Look at the context of chapter 1. Verses 2, 3, 12 and 16, talk about trials and perseverance (verse 12 should be on our minds on a regular basis -Jas 1:12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him ). And verse 16 tells us don’t be deceived about the effect sin can have on your life.
The following context through verse 27 goes back to the ideas of sin and receiving the word implanted, and then goes on to say we need to be doers of the word and not merely hearers. He goes on to talk about bridling our tongue and what pure religion is.
So back to verses 19 and 20. Yes, this does deal with interpersonal relationships. However, contextually there may be something else going on in these two verses. James is saying true Christianity is seen in its deeds, what faith is urging you to do based upon hearing the word of God. Maybe it’s more about response to the will of god in challenging circumstances. Perhaps it’s more about our tendency to want to choose our own way, about wanting to argue with God’s ways. Maybe it’s more about stopping and listening to God in the midst of challenging situations.
What we're saying is "I’m in pain here God and I don’t like your solution to the problem, God." That’s what we’re saying. This is more about wisdom exposure, what are we listening to the the midst of life’s problems? Psalm 46 sets a precedent.
In James 3:13-17 he continues what has been set up in chapter one. Make sure you’re listening to the right source of information. Do not rely upon the message of the world or your own thoughts. Pause and reflect vs. react. Patience in the midst of pain.
Here are some specific examples where we might struggle with this:
Sobriety. Many want to argue with God about that. A lot of the justifications for drinking are about people wanting to choose their own way. "I don’t like what you have to say here God."
Purity. Fornication is a foregone conclusion today when relationships reach a retain point.
Modesty. Does anyone blush anymore?
Marriage and divorce. "I am not happy, surely God wants me to be happy," we argue. There is only one authorized reason for divorce and that is adultery.
Discipleship. I don’t want to have to go to service every week.
Next world or the need to be patient for the ultimate payment for our faith. We want short cuts, get our due here and now.
Elijah. 1 Kings 19. He has a pity party for himself, "I am the only one left, kill me now." God says what are you doing here? There are still 7000 who have not bowed their knees to Baal. He had a fit about his role and needed an attitude correction.
Jonah, in Jonah 4. I don’t like what you are doing here God.
Habakkuk. Chapter 2. C'mon God, how can you use these people to accomplish your will? In the end he says, however, that if everything falls apart he will follow God.
Three things we learn from these men:
Regardless of how down and out you get you just stay spiritually steadfast
Count your blessings in the midst of your struggles
Focus on the bigger picture.
The confidence of the faithful. Psalms 78:7-8. This is the wisdom James is getting at. There are no satisfying and lasting solutions in the wisdom of this world, which would include things like: faith is for the foolish, self is exalted above all and pleasure is the ultimate achievement. We need to keep in mind that even when we don’t understand, even when we are disillusioned and discouraged, God’s ways are always the best answer. Listen to God, be quick to hear.