My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry
James 1:19 (NIV)
James focuses on the how, not the why of our trials in the verse above. God allows us to experience trials, because he is proving our faith. He is addressing our defects and doesn’t want us to lack anything. So, we can’t get angry about what is happening to us or about what others are saying to, around, or in spite of us. Whatever they are saying is much more spiritual than they understand.
Out of reverence for God, we should listen to Him and let His Word shape our speech, so that our speech can reflect our faith. God is doing more to shape and perfect us with difficult exchanges with others than we realize.
This is the how.
The why is because God wants to prove our faith, but to prove our faith, we need to be a good steward of our words. If we don’t want to experience the same trials over and over again, James makes it clear that we should let our ears lead us, our mouth follow, and let anger straggle along (James 1:19 MSG). That way, when we are faced with someone who is using reckless words, we can learn to see this as God’s work in our life and a maturing of our faith.
When James wrote this, James was standing in a world of infant Christianity. Words caused Christians to be locked up, killed, and publicly beaten. Violent rhetoric was inciting violent and senseless killings. Words were making family members enemies. Instead of people listening to what God was saying, they were acting on their own words and letting anger lead them.
Today, we often let anger take us to a place that we regret once our anger has subsided. But James reminds us that Jesus wants us to respond differently. We follow Christ, and He helps us to control our emotions. By the Grace of God and the work of the Spirit, we can be transformed until we can bring our emotions in check and line up our emotions with God’s Word and will.
If the Holy Spirit leads and emotions follow, we can make decisions that will expand the Kingdom of God.