Summary: We can’t just listen we must act on what we hear.
Time to make an application
Last week we started a study of the book of James. The general theme that I am looking at is a Faith that Works. Last week the subject was Pure Joy. James explains to his readers then and today that trials come in spite of our faith. In James’s day is was addressing persecutions and we related to the 3 F’s of problems today – Family, Finances and Physical or FITNESS.
The general idea was that people of faith have something to hold on too even when the times are dark and rough. Our slender life line of faith connects us to a great anchor, holding us in place.
Not that it is pleasant, but we actually learn from our bad times and hard experiences and when each time passes our faith in God Grows.
James does not believe that God sends the trials or that we should just take his opinion about the trial sin our lives. When we hade doubts and questions…when we wonder why god does not seem to respond or provide us a miracle we can call out to God…..He explains that we can ask god for wisdom and he will freely give it with gives with judgment on us for asking.
We can ask God for wisdom…understanding….not necessarily knowledge. Knowledge answers Who, Why, where and Why….Wisdom builds trust and peace and hope.
So, James calls his readers to have “Joy” in spite of their situation because God is with them in the moment and their real joy is one that comes in God’s time.
In today’s reading the focus remains on faith. Today’s reading reminds me of using lemon juice to write a note on paper. The only way for someone else to see the message is for it to become visible.
James’ statements tell me something of how faith, something invisible, becomes something visible in a believer’s life.
In our reading today James reminds his readers of the family kind of relationship that they share… “Dear Brothers” He is still not claiming any special authority or position. He is writing as an equal, offering his counsel.
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
Two psychiatrists meet at their 20th college reunion. One is vibrant, while the other looks withered and worried.
“So what’s your secret?” the older looking psychiatrist asks. “Listening to other people’s problems every day, all day long, for years on end, has made an old man of me.”
“So,” replies the younger looking one, “who listens?”
James suggests that we should be quick to listen. As I thought about that I realized how hard that is for me. Perhaps it is hard for you as well.
Listening is different than hearing. We hear noises all the time. We learn to tune things out. We often don’t really hear the traffic as we drive along in our cars. I guess it becomes background noise…and other things hold our attention like the radio. Unless we hear the screeching of car tires or the sudden sound of a siren right around us.
Then suddenly our attention becomes focused. I think that James is suggesting a willingness to listen to people and actually hear what they are saying is important.
The giving of a flippant answer or just tossing out “Your Opinion” can be a problem if your were not listening to another person and suddenly the screeching sound of a question comes your way.
But I wonder if his suggestion has a deeper context. I wonder, if we have a problem listening to people if we might have a problems listening to God in scripture reading. If we are more interested in reading to advance the bookmark more than listening to and finding meaning in what we read.
He adds to be slow to answer….How often have I just said no or yes to my children’s request without thinking…without getting all the information.
How about snapping answer to a person’s comment or request with no consideration or real thought, with no prayerful consideration of the situation … just my reaction and my suggestion.
Slow to speak indicates to me that we consider how and even if we should answer.
I believe that people respond much better and longer term to encouragement than a tong lashing and that is why James added the statement to be slow to anger.
When I take a moment to thank back to times when I became angry, especially at acquaintances or strangers and all too often family. I can almost always look at the suggestions from James and realize that I could have had a lot less embarrassment and hard feelings and a lot fewer apologies if I held tightly to this one line of scripture.