19 Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry. 20 This is because an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore, with humility, set aside all moral filth and the growth of wickedness, and welcome the word planted deep inside you—the very word that is able to save you.
22 You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. 23 Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. 24 They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. 25 But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do.
The Book of James is tough to read because of its many reminders of how easily we can go astray. If we forget to slow ourselves down and listen, and instead speak or anger quickly, we risk falling into the very sin the author describes. Yet with our sound-bite, quick-fix society, this seems like a familiar trap. So who or what is a good reminder to listen, rather than speak, for you?
I don’t wish to make light of the scripture, but my dog, Mazie, is my favorite reminder to abide by these words from James. (She is so quiet that I actually had to teach her to bark or “speak” a little.) –In fact, my husband frequently jokes that even with our now adult kids, Mazie is our best listener.
When I whistle from long away, Mazie will come faithfully to be by my side. I know she is forever listening for my words that could initiate: a trip outside, my attention or for her feeding. Best of all, Mazie knows her boundaries and who she is. She knows my voice and quietly stays alert watching for trouble and answering my requests. Besides being our best friends, our dogs are often terrific living examples of how to live out steady lives of faith.
So when I read, “welcome the word planted deep inside you,” this time, I think of Mazie’s constant learned way of faithfulness. She wasn’t born that way, it took building our daily relationship. Mazie grew in knowledge and understanding through listening and paying close attention to my words and then reacting to them. What a reminder for me to stay in God’s Word and then act through faith!
As God’s people, we need not worry that we cannot always live out every law to perfection because this is not what God expects. Instead, Our Lord just asks that we daily read and listen for God’s Word, and then react with that in mind. Our God just asks that we learn to hear God’s call, listening first and saving words and anger for later.
by Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
When we are not driven daily to God’s Word, how easy is it to forget what being a Christian looks like. Who or what is a good reminder to return with humility to God’s Word? Who or what is a good reminder to listen first, be slow to speech and even slower to anger?
Prayer: Lord God, Thank you for the messages of faithfulness and Christian love that we find all around us. Thank you for your words that remind us to be quick to listen but slow to speak and slower to anger. Help us to continue to know You by being in your Word and then by acting for your godly mission here on earth. Amen.