Hurry Up and Hear-James 1:18-21
Today is week two of our series “Say What.” “Say what” might be the reaction of shock to something spoken that is inappropriate, untrue or disrespectful. So, we are using some scripture to raise our awareness on improving how we communicate with each other. One place where we are reminded to use our words well is the book of James, beginning in chapter one. I think it is interesting that just before James begins to give instruction about how we talk to one another, he leads with a reminder to believers that they are the spiritual first fruits of God’s truth that has taken life in them as followers of Jesus. James said, “In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creation.” 1:18 In other words, the followers of Jesus are to produce the evidence that the power of God’s truth is active in them/ us. Therefore, the truth of God that is inside of you makes a difference in how you are to speak and listen to others. James continues, “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” V.19 APPLIES TO EVERYONE Notice the imperative and universal nature of this instruction. James said this teaching applies to all followers of Jesus. “You must understand this…” No one gets a pass, young, old, rich, poor, gifted, special abilities, pastor, church member – no one gets off the hook. This principle of applying truth to all is a recurring theme with James. James is also going to confront the issue of favoritism being demonstrated between those with money and those without money. James applies equally expectations on how followers of Jesus talk with each other. QUICK TO LISTEN AND SLOW TO SPEAK James went onto say – “be quick to listen and slow to speak.” We are to hurry and hear; but drag our feet in responding with our words. Isn’t that so opposite of the culture and times in which we live? We talked last week about carefully watching we don’t depend on the culture for guidance on how we live. The instruction from James is so opposite of the culture that celebrates heated arguments and in your face debates. Illustration: Lana told me this PAST week there was a murder of a young man in the neighborhood where her Jacob’s Ladder ministry operates. She said the shooting really didn’t begin with a gun. The shooting began with two men who started going back-n-forth on Facebook with harsh words toward each other until the words escalated in violence. You only need to watch for a few minutes a political or sports show where there are a panel of people and see how they will be slow to listen and quick to speak. James said not so with you, “be quick to listen and slow to speak.” • Pastor Andy Stanley states that one thing everyone wants even when there is conflict is to be heard and understood. • Being slow to speak and quick to listen increases the chances for understanding one another. • We are more likely to seek to understand, ask questions, be curious about the other person and what they are trying to say if we are quick to listen and slow to speak. SLOW TO ANGER Then James adds another layer to his teaching. He said, “be slow to anger.” Here, the word anger means to rush or be hasty in getting upset, frustrated and agitated. And immediately James follows this teaching with a reason – “because your anger doesn’t produce God’s righteousness” – rightness. The NIV Bible says, “For a man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Now we might be thinking, hey Jesus got angry – what about the words we heard last week of Jesus when he called the Pharisees “brood of vipers”? What about Paul who said, “be angry but sin not”? It’s true to be angry is not necessarily a sin. But what James is warning us here is that more often than not our anger is hasty, it means to act in a hurry to get what we want. Usually our anger is hurried because we’re not getting what we want; not necessarily because something isn’t right that needs correcting. James said become slow to anger, don’t rush in because many times our anger isn’t going to seek what is right in God’s eyes; just our own. I know that from first-hand experience and so do you. Our anger in haste isn’t working what God would have done in the moment. RIGTHEOUSNESS OF GOD A fair question to ask is what is the righteousness of God? The righteousness of God in New Testament has more to do with making us right with God through forgiveness, than us being right in what we are saying. Listen to the following verses from 2 Corinthians 5:17-20A “So, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; (sounds similar to James description about being the first fruits) everything old has passed away; see everything has become new! All this is from God who reconciled (the word reconciled means we have been made right with God) us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation (once were made right with God, the followers of Jesus are to be used to help people become right with God) ; that in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us…” No wonder James said be quick to listen and slow to speak because it is through your words/our words God is being represented and is at work in the world to make people right with him. Watch this piece from Andy Stanley about our anger and the righteousness of God. Video 21:50-27:35 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kc13y-MhqOg&t=1655s REMOVE AND REPLACE James continues and says, “Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.” V.21 Those words remind us transformation of our lives always involves receiving some gift from God that replaces what we already have. Following Jesus is a never-ending reality and process of remove and replace, remove and replace. James said we need to get rid of sordidness and rank growth of wickedness… The imagery behind the word “sordidness” is when you have gotten your clothes stained and dirty. You have to take them off, completely removed them to wash them; just wiping with a wet cloth won’t do. James said replace the soiled mindset of bitterness and selfishness by, “Welcome with meekness (humility) the implanted word.” The implanted word is pointing us to the wisdom God wants to place deep within our heart, which includes teaching from scripture. I love a comment Stanley makes that can help us know whether our mindset is humble or meek. Stanley says, “the word meekness is trying to stress that “we” is more important than “me.” Conclusion Take a moment and think about one of your worst conversations where what you said hurt someone. Looking back, don’t you wish you could have been rescued from yourself, your own words in that moment? If you can pinpoint a moment like that, then you know what James meant when he said, “if you welcome the word it can “save your souls.” The word save is not talking about being sure you are a Christian; but means to keep you from hurting and doing damage to relationships. • It’s steering us away from being our own worst enemy in conversations. • It can save us from doing damage to others, especially those closest to us. According to James, followers of Jesus need to humbly, be quick to listen and slow to speak in our communication with others. Next week, we’ll look at more teaching from James, so we are reminded of the challenge this is for all of us.