I trust that this letter finds you doing well. As I write this letter, I am currently on an overnight flight to the Middle East. I appreciate your prayers for my family as we are separated. They are all doing well. We serve an amazing God and He has been gracious to us. Please remember that I am still here to serve you in any way that I can.
As a Chaplain I do lots of counseling. One verse that is often considered/reflected on when it comes to interpersonal relationships is James 1:19. It says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” God has created us with two ears and one mouth. Our ears are exposed and our tongue and mouth are bridled inside our cheeks, jaw, and teeth. Too often we use our mouth too frequently and ears not enough. I would be very ineffective if while counseling I did all the talking. We need to take time to listen and understand the situation, before you can speak truth into someone’s life. In your own relationships do you take time to listen? Do you talk or listen more? In any relationship it would be wise to take James’ admonishment. The principles are beneficial in any relationship. Whether it be a husband/wife, a parent/child, an employer/employee relationship, etc… the only problem is that it is not the context of the passage.
Who or what are we to be quick to listen to? When should we be slow to speak? When are we to be slow to anger? The answer is God’s Word, which James refers to as the “implanted word”, picking up on the parable of the Sower & the Seed. We should be quick to hear or listen to God’s word, WHY? It is able to save your soul. This is no trivial thing. God’s word is able to transform our lives and we need to ensure that we are quick to listen and receive it. It is not enough to simply recognize the audible articulation; we need to listen to receive it and then do it. Romans 10:17 says, “So then Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Over time God has spoken to mankind in various ways. He has spoken directly, He has used dreams, He has used messengers, and He has given us the written word. God spoke creation into existence and through His word; mankind can be redeemed back to Him. It is essential that we are quick to hear or listen; we are incapable of being saved/redeemed without it.
Slow to speak. For most of us, we like to talk. I’ve been known to be a little long winded. Sometimes it is necessary to be quick to speak. As a parent when our children are in harm’s way, that would not be the time to be slow to speak. We should be slow to speak in regards to God’s Word, but how or in what capacity? Two ways, the first is authoritatively as a master or teacher and the second is in haste. We are all called to go make disciples, we do this by teaching others to obey all that Christ commanded, but if we don’t know what that is or what that looks like, we are not prepared to do it and may cause more harm. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness”. When you are in a position of authority or influence there is a greater responsibility and we will be judged accordingly. James was addressing some issues that had risen. You had individuals that would debate or argue with the speaker and you had quarrels and fights within the congregation. The other danger we have is arguing with God and His Word. There are some who want to debate God and what His word says. We are not in authority. God is, and what His word says is. James has just dealt with an example of this issue in the previous verses in regards to God’s quality and characteristics. As Pastors and leaders you are in positions of authority, be mindful of the responsibility and potential judgment that comes with that.
Slow to anger, we should not get angry at God or His word. As leaders, we are not to be quick tempered or hot headed either. It is one of therequirements of elders and deacons. We should not be quick to get in to debate and arguments with other individuals. This was very common among the Jewish people. The reason James is addressing it.
Have you ever felt the need to defend God? What about His righteousness? God does not need us to defend Him. We should stand for truth, but we don’t need to engage others with our view of righteousness. There are a lot of divisions in the church and there should not be, but in most cases it is because of pride and self-righteousness, not God’s word or truth. One of the ugliest things that can take place in a church is when there is a disagreement and both sides think they are standing on God’s side and His righteousness. Is there disunity and division in God’s attributes? If there is a disagreement both sides can’t be right if they are making a stand for God. Either one is right and the other is wrong or they both are wrong. Man’s view of righteousness or his anger do not produce the righteousness God requires (James 1:20). Let us not deceive ourselves and think we are standing for God’s righteousness when it is not His, but what we think it is.
As I pray for you, I would ask that you pray for me. I am currently overseeing about 1,000 soldiers in two Middle Eastern Countries. I am also for at least the first part of my deployment the only Chaplain on the base, responsible for about 2700 people. I would ask that you pray that God would bestow wisdom, discernment, and strength as I seek to do His will and shepherd the soldiers in my care.