Wisdom in speech (Quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger) James 1:19-26

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22

The epistle of James has three themes that recur throughout the letter: trials, wisdom, and poverty and riches. We find these three themes in that order in chapter 1, verses 2-11, where the first cycle of these themes are first laid out. Then in chapter 1, verses 12-27, James repeats the three themes, but he expands and elaborates on them. We saw last time we met how James expanded on the theme of trials, going deeper into the distinction between trials and temptation and their outcome.

Our text for next Sunday brings us to the second sermon of the second cycle. In verses 19-26, James now elaborates on the theme of wisdom, particularly in the area of speech. He brings this out in verse 19, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” James starts off with the command, “Know this,” but at the same time addresses the brethren in a loving manner “my beloved brothers.” James uses the force of an imperative verb, but does so pastorally in a loving and tender manner. Then he goes right to the point: “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” The English verb “let” may sound like merely a wish or desire from James, but it again is an imperative verb, and so a command from James and ultimately from God. James goes deeper into each of these commands; first “Be slow to anger” in verses 20-21; second “Be quick to listen” and finally in verses 22-25, “be slow to speak.

In the second section, “be quick to listen,” there is a well-known text that each of us would do well to memorize and also apply to our lives as believers in Christ. It is James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

As you prepare for this coming Sunday please mediate on the text: James 1:19-26. There is such depth to James’ words to the church, “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” I believe there is not a single believer who cannot grow in these areas. And all these things are related to wisdom. So please pray for this coming Sunday, that God would grant us such wisdom by His Holy Spirit through the Word. Without prayer and without God’s Spirit we can do nothing; but with these things, and by His grace, we pray that we may indeed be doers of the Word and not forgetful hearers only.

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