A tough week of readings coming up!
Once again, we are not dealing with pious platitudes about religion but the tough and ever-present reality of living out our faith in a world that has little time for God. The readings are about communicating with people – speaking and listening, and then going on to do something practical to demonstrate the presence of God in our lives.
Our faith is more than something immensely personal just to be followed in the confines of our homes and churches. It is to be open, spoken about in public, and clearly demonstrated in our way of life. So, read on …..
v 19. Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
There is a huge difference between knowing and understanding! Ask any mathematics teacher – plenty of students might know a formula that solves quadratic equations but have no clue whatever as to the meaning and significance of it.
Real understanding leads to action when it comes to the three things mentioned in this verse. ‘You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.’ Most of us will have met someone who knows it is good to listen to other people rather than waffling on at them but who nevertheless continues talking over them. They ‘know’ the good thing to do if they are asked but have not understood how to do it in practice.
Behind all these three aspects of behaviour lies the issue of self-control and genuine respect for other people. You may be aware of people who always seem to know better than you do, and delight in letting you know. So the point James is making is ‘Are you like that?’ Quit thinking ‘Oh yes – I know someone just like that. S/he always wants the last word because s/he is always right’ Rather, begin to think, might that person be me? Understanding an issue is to be able to contemplate the possibility that I might be at fault, and then to modify my behaviour accordingly.
How do you feel when someone else is slow to listen and quick to speak? It probably seems disrespectful and makes you feel undervalued.
Until we ALL (yes, James does say ALL!) understand and learn these qualities of character our relationships might well be strained and our ability to work together for God be less than effective.