Words Have Power – The Letter of James, Part Two

When chatting with friends or family over the phone, we can be doing other things at the same time. But there are other times, when listening carefully is incredibly important. Listening well is both thoughtful and sacrificial. How well do we listen to God’s voice? Truth is, there are times when it really matters how well we listen.

In days of adversity we can be much slower to listen and quicker to speak. We often turn inward and become consumed by whatever circumstances we are facing. In those moments, we are likely to hone in on our problems and allow them to drown out all else in our speech. We listen less. James teaches that while in the midst of trouble, our tendency is to speak and our speech can lean toward anger. Words have power — What we do with words, both those we speak and those spoken to us, greatly affects the way we live. When our listening slows not only does our speaking rage, but also our temper.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jas 1:19–20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

In 1:20 James writes that ill-mannered tempers are not pleasing to God. His writing here is to help Christians wholeheartedly live out their faith and in particular, James is mindful of how many readers are facing trials and temptations of various kinds. New Testament Christians faced problems and today’s Christians face problems. Many of these problems are the same in nature.

Jesus Christ was right to be angry in Mark 11:15-17. We know he was sinless and that his anger was justified. We also know Jesus’ just anger was slow in coming. Ours seldom is, if ever.

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 11:15–17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Rather than spew thoughtless language when in the midst of trouble, we should pause for a heart check and ask ourselves, “What do my words speak? Whom does this speech honor?” We would do well to listen to God’s voice, His Scriptures, remembering the words of James.