“My dearly loved brothers, understand this: everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” (James 2:19-20 CSB)
Have you ever known someone who seems quick to speak when he or she hears a statement made? Often when that happens what is said is laced with emotion, sometimes of the anger type. These folks will also often finish your thoughts or your sentences for you.
Somewhere between “hearing” and “speaking” a reaction takes place in the mind. It is that reaction that leads to speaking. Sometimes folks hear something they don’t like, and the reaction is immediate, swift, and then – boom! – an explosion of emotion and a cacophony of words. We generally excuse this by saying, “Well, he’s just ‘wired’ that way.” Maybe so, but we should probably still not excuse it.
James advises us to adopt a practice that should be considered a “grace” practice. He uses two modifying words to help us see this. The practice is twofold: 1) quick to hear, and 2) slow to speak. What this does is to give the normal reaction between the two events time to sift, time to settle, and time to stimulate a thoughtful response in place of a reaction. Reactions generally do not help because most of them go straight to anger, which, says James, does not accomplish God’s righteousness, or, what God wants. Reactive anger is generally all us and not much of God. The grace practice is to think about it before we speak. We must be eager to listen, but we must also be slow to speak, so we can hear from the Holy Spirit in our thought processes.
For those who have a quick mind, this is easier said than done. But, practice makes perfect. Deciding that we are going to be quick to hear and slow to speak is the starting point.
Lord, Help us to practice this grace of being quick to hear and slow to speak, so that we can serve more fully according to Your will. Amen.