James 1: 19-20: 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.
Ephesians 4:29: 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.
James, a brother of Jesus, and a leader in the Jerusalem church, writes to the scattered Jewish Christians. He seeks to give them practical advice on how to best live out their life of faith. Those words written long ago still have significant meaning for us as followers of Christ today. “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” (James 1:19b-20).
All of us know people who always seem angry at something. Often times even they don’t know who or what they are angry with. They allow their anger to control them and to take up permanent residence inside their mind and body. When I meet a believer that is filled with anger, I can’t help but think about how their anger is quenching the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit, who lives and dwells within every believer. As a follower of Christ, if you project anger instead of compassion, you are setting a bad example for those who do not believe. How can unbelievers see Christ in us if we live a life filled with anger?
James tells us that we should be “quick to listen.” That’s good advice that most all of us could benefit from, especially if we have trouble controlling our anger. I notice people who always talk but never listen. And often the words that they speak serve to condemn themselves even more. But they can’t help themselves and they just continue talking, trying to tear down others with their hurtful and angry words. What they fail to realize is how much they are condemning their own souls. People like this are not “quick to listen”, they have already decided that they are right and the other person is wrong.
James tells us that we should be “slow to speak.” It’s sad that many believers rush to judgment of others and speak harsh words instead of following the nudge of the Spirit and remaining quiet. Being “slow to speak” is a gift of the Holy Spirit. I have had many occasions in my life when I could have said something hateful or hurtful, but instead, I allowed the Holy Spirit to guide my actions and my tongue. The Spirit produces self-control in those believers who rely on the Spirit and they are granted a life filled with peace instead of judgment and anger.
James tells us that we should be “slow to become angry.” I have not always controlled my anger well, especially in my younger years. But as I have matured and more importantly, allowed the Holy Spirit to guide me, I have made great progress in being slow to become angry. I feel sorry for people who live out their days filled with anger. Many of these people don’t even realize how the anger inside them is destroying their soul and their relationship with other people. They become judgmental and point out the imperfections in others while disregarding their own flaws.
Jesus gave some sound advice for those of us who are quick to judge others. In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Rome, also gives sound advice on how to be at peace with others. Romans 12: 17-21: Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.