The Book of James- Listen, Speak and Obey

As we study through the book of James, there is much to learn, and the beauty is the simplicity with which James writes these important truths. Today we look at James 1:19-21.

James 1:19-21 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

Whenever I read these verses, I think of the many times I fall short of living it out. I tend to interject with my thoughts and opinions before I fully listen. With age and maturity, I have gotten better at listening, but is James just talking about listening to others, what about listening to the voice of God?

At the start of the study, we learnt that James wrote to the scattered Christians who were enduring trials and persecution. Going through persecution can take the wind out of our sails and sometimes the good from our intentions and behaviours. As the believers then, needed a reminder to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, we very much need constant reminding of it all too. As a community of faith, how well do we, be still and listen to God, how do we listen to those who might not agree with us or say hurtful things about us. And do we allow our anger to rule our behaviour? We might be conscious of allowing ourselves as followers of Christ to show God’s love first and foremost, but does that remain the filter through which we operate when we are in disagreement with another. At the start of verse 19 James writes ‘Everyone should’…, this reminder cautions against the excuse that some are just wired with a short fuse or no filter when they speak. We are meant to be intentional over these three things.

In James 1:18, James writes that we have a new birth through the word of Christ. The word of God is truth to us, it teaches us, convicts, and shapes us. Therefore, James admonishes that we need to be receptive to the word of God. He says we are to be quick to listen. With the widespread use of media and screens in everyone’s palm, it is very rare that our mind is blank, we are always intentionally or inadvertently allowing ourselves to be recipients of some narrative and thereby we listen. What we listen to shapes us in more ways than we think. How often have we felt the need to tone down the narrative of the world because it affects our peace? The word and voice of God should be the loudest in our lives so that the drone of other voices does not drown out what really matters. And the best way to do it is to ensure that you spend time with Him, in prayer and in bible study, both corporate and personal.

What does the Bible say about anger?

Psalm 37:8 “Refrain from anger and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”

Proverbs 14:29 “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

Ecclesiastes 7:9 “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.”

Does God get angry

Isaiah 5:25 “The Lord’s anger burns against his people; his hand is raised, and he strikes them down. The mountains shake, and the dead bodies are like refuse in the streets. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.”

Understanding the anger of the Lord requires us to remember that He is good and holy and as such cannot turn away from evil and injustice. God created us in His image, when we his people turn away from Him, place other things in the rightful place of worship that should be His in our lives, we commit idolatry, and that disobedience often leads to the stirring up of God’s anger towards us.

“The prophets Isaiah in the verse above, never portrays God’s anger as something that cannot be accounted for, unpredictable, irrational. It is never a spontaneous outburst, but a reaction occasioned by the conduct of humans…and motivated by concern for right and wrong.” (Abraham Heschel, The Prophets Vol. 2, “The Theology of Pathos,” p362.)

God is slow to anger

Psalm 86:15 says, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

A response of anger to injustices that happen is right and justified, after all, we are to be concerned with things that matter to God. But James says we are to be slow to anger. It gives one time to reflect on the underlying reason for that anger. Often, when my hubby and I feel wronged by someone, we allow at least a day if not more to pass, giving us both the time to pray about it and decide if anything needs to be said at all. It not only helps us refrain from reacting from our emotions, but it gives us time to seek God for wisdom, discernment, and guidance. And there are times when the Lord shines a light on our hurt pride as the cause for it all.  

And why is it so important to be slow to anger, verse 20 says it all “because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” Take note that James specifies human anger. Anger based on man’s wisdom can mislead. Why is the anger of man different than the anger of God? Because humans are sinners (Romans 3:23) and God is perfect and holy (Psalm 99:9; Isaiah 5:16; Mathew 5:48).  Since God is perfect and holy, his anger is within the bounds of His perfect and Holy nature. God can be angry and not sin. 

James then writes to put off all moral filth and evil that is so prevalent. The prevalence of things that abhor the Lord seems apt as a description for today too. With intentionality we put off these things because we are a new creation in Him, no more slaves to our earthly desires but instead we are to allow the word of God that is planted within us to grow. And that growth can take place only if we ensure that we keep weeding out the evil that seeks to establish roots within us.

Let the word planted within us thrive, and as we take in these verses from James, let us be receptive to the word of God reflecting the work of Christ in us in the way we listen, speak and what we get angry over.

God Bless

36 thoughts on “The Book of James- Listen, Speak and Obey

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  1. This is such a great post, Manu. You have given me a lot to ponder. The verses you shared made me reflect on how often I fall short in this area. One line that really hit me was when you said, “but is James just talking about listening to others, what about listening to the voice of God?” I never thought about these verses from that perspective before. You make such a great point. It also really struck a chord when you mentioned “we are always intentionally or inadvertently allowing ourselves to be recipients of some narrative and thereby we listen.” I fear too often I allow the world’s noise to drown out God’s voice. It makes me sad to think of how much I miss that He wants to share with me. I really appreciate the verses you shared on anger as well. Anger is something that we see too often in our world. Many of us are quick to anger instead of slow to anger. May we learn to be angry at the right times, like times of injustice, as you pointed out. And may we learn to let go of anger that is not called for. The words you had at the end were beautiful – “let the word planted within us thrive.” That will then help us succeed in these areas. Awesome post! Thank you for leading us on this journey. Blessings, my friend!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you my friend. We all fall short, but let us not be discouraged by that but let that spur us to better obedience.
      We are always listening to some narrative – scary isn’t it if we do not filter what we allow ourselves to be fed with. I think in these times of so much information and noise it takes intentionality.
      Anger- gosh I feel so many get riled up about things easily and there is such lack of tolerance.
      May we allow the word to thrive 🙏🏽
      Thank you my friend for your words, they always encourage me and just make me happy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Manu, an important and timely post! Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Listening is a conscious effort; fixing our attention on what is being said; respectfully. I have seen in my church, impatience, lack of forgiveness, and self-righteousness, leading to anger and disharmony. We need to listen, rejecting evil and pride. The devil is always trying to destroy and disrupt. As Christians, we need to let the Word and love direct our actions.
    I am a work in progress trying to improve. 😊 Thanks for the reminder! Have a wonderful weekend, my friend! 💖💐🌺

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We are all indeed a work in progress. I am with you that we need to be more purposeful in listening to others and like you mentioned I have seen it in churches I have been in too. The devil attacks our unity through one way or another and in doing so the focus of the church does not remain primarily on saving souls and making disciples.
      Thank you Jeanne and you too have a wonderful weekend ahead 😊💙

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This something to always be working on. Thoughtful listening ought to lead the way in how we interact with everyone, because, from there, I believe, our speech becomes that much more purposeful and our anger can be slowed. I am definitely not there yet, but always looking to His ready hand to help me. Thank you for the great insights, Manu! Blessings! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You said it so well Marisa. Thoughtful listening leads our speech to be more purposeful and our anger to be slowed – yes indeed! May we always remember that and seek the Lords help in doing so.
      Thank you Marisa. Have a wonderful weekend 💙

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this post. There is so much here to work on!
    When you quoted James’ words about anger, I thought of David Powlison’s book, Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining and Bitterness. He writes about God’s righteous, holy anger, and our (often) selfish anger.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I like how you pointed out that “everyone should” in verse 19, that reminds us we can not use personality or culture as an excuse for anger. We must come under the submission of God regardless of. Also that’s a great practice you and your hubby have. We must all learn to think before we speak. Thanks Manu, enjoy your weekend ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. When I was growing up, I used to hear those sort of things – It was kind of attributed to personality or like you said culture. It was later I realised how wrong it was. We are not meant to just accept those things about us or excuse anyone else.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I can definitely testify to the fact anger produces unrighteousness! I like the practice thay you and your husband have of waiting a day and praying before talking to someone in anger. This world would be a better place if we all did that. James really is a rich book, isn’t it? It’s wonderful gaining insight into ot through your posts. Thanks, Manu!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Anger is such a slippery slope. It leads us to say and do things we later regret. And I realise that when I allow anger to stew within me I don’t feel any sense of the lords presence with me and that should be indication enough that it is not the right thing. Thank you so much Colleen.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I couldn’t agree more with you on this, ma’am. 💯

    We would be saving ourselves a lot of headache and burnt bridges if only we slowed down to listen to the why of the other party and take some time to cool off for God to help us discern right as well.

    Acting in anger never bears any good fruit. 💯

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The book of James is oh so good stuff! “because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires,” makes one refocus when anger rears it’s ugly head in our lives. Thanks for sharing these truths with us! 💜💯

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Always so worth the read Manu. I enjoyed the metaphor of weeding out the evil in our lives. We do grow and thrive when we throw off the sin that so easily entangled us. A hindrance that only slows and stunts our growth.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. What an eye opener. This blog post has changed my perspective about the type of anger that God allows. First and foremost I am created in the image of God and if God gets angry I have a right to be angry too but….my anger should be caused by injustice and weaknesses because God’s agenda should be my agenda. In that way, my anger ends up producing the righteousness of God but if I get angry only when my desires aren’t met by fellow human beings then that kind of anger ends up causing more trouble. Wow! May the Lord help me to know when to be angry and when not to be and may I learn to be slow to anger and keep my cool in every circumstances. This was deep sis

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much sis and I am so glad this helped you understand a bit more about anger and that it is ok to feel angry about injustices but also that our anger should not lead us to sin.


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