Welcome to the second week of Jump Start!
If you missed any of the first week, catch up by clicking on any day below:
This week’s Jump Start posts are only available to email subscribers (awesome people like you). Thanks for giving me a chance to help you connect with God through Scripture this year. It’s an opportunity I don’t take lightly, which is good news because in chapter 3, James says anyone who attempts to teach others about God will be “judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1).
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. – James 1:19-26
The wisdom theme from 1:5-8 is repeated here in 1:19-25. In today’s passage, James links one activity with wisdom: obedience.
One of my best friends has consistently described obedience as our “I love you” back to God. That’s simple and beautiful and really hard to do sometimes.
As Christians, we are in no way obedient in an effort to earn God’s love or to try and impress him. We’re already bad enough at doing that with each other. Instead, obedience is simply real, active faith lived out because we already have God’s love.
The 3 Commands (v. 19)
James, remaining in line with the Wisdom Tradition of the Old Testament, lists three commands his audience would be fairly familiar with. He will then return to expound on each one in the coming verses.
- Slow to anger (1:20-21)
- Quick to hear/listen (1:22-25)
- Slow to speak (1:26)
Can you imagine how much better the world would be if everyone would simply live out these three things? But remember, every time we think the Bible is aimed at someone else it’s always piercing our own hearts first. So, can you imagine how much better the world would be if you would simply live out these three things? I know I would be a much better husband, pastor, and friend. What about you?
Slow to Anger (1:20-21)
It’s fairly rare to find a specific story mentioned in all four Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). For example, only two (Matthew and Luke) include the birth of Jesus – that’s kind of a big deal. But all four Gospel writers include a story where Jesus seems to lose his mind when he went to the Temple and saw money-changers shaking down God’s people as they purchased animals to offer as sacrifices. (Matthew 21:12–17, Mark 11:15–19, Luke 19:45–48 and John 2:13–16).
My Bible titles this story, “Jesus Cleanses the Temple.” That’s like describing an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie as “A Minor Political Disagreement.” Massive understatement. Jesus saw all the corruption and went nuts. He flipped tables over and grabbed a whip driving all the con artists out of the temple along with their animals.
In all four Gospel accounts it is clear that Jesus was angry. But we also know that Jesus never sinned so there is such a thing as righteous anger. Furthermore, Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesian church, “Be angry and do not sin.” – Ephesians 4:26
But how often does that actually happen? Because I don’t know about you…well, yes I do – you’re not Jesus! I’m definitely not either. When I’m angry, 99.999% of the time I’m in sin. Even when I feel like I’m righteously angry at something unjust like child slavery, I find myself getting personally angry at anyone who disagrees and I find my angry turning into hate toward those who cause that injustice. I fail to see wicked people as God sees them, people created in his image and people for whom Christ died.
Quick to hear/listen (v. 22-25)
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you know they’re not really listening? They may appear to be listening they’re really just formulating their own response instead of listening to yours. They’re just waiting for you to take a breath so they can jump in with their own opinion.
When James expounds on what it means to be quick to listen, he doesn’t use an example of a conversation. Instead, he centers the discussion around Scripture. That person who’s clearly not listening to you – that’s how you and I act toward God when we hear his word and don’t do what it says.
Notice: God is looking for do-ers of the word, not don’t-ers of sin.
Far too often, Christians are known for what they’re against instead of what they’re for. Remember how James echoes Jesus? If we were to truly live out the Sermon on the Mount, our primary job would be ways to serve in the kingdom of God not a list of sins to avoid. Remember, sin is also a primary theme of the book of James and he will pay great attention to it later in the book but here, he wants us to focus our attention on what it means to live out the word of God in our daily lives. Real, active faith.
Slow to speak (1:26)
Self-control. It’s one component of the fruit of the Spirit Paul writes about in Galatians 5 and it is something sorely lacking in the Church today, specifically in the area of speech.
Maybe if James were writing this today he would say everyone should be “slow to tweet.” This verse should drastically change the way we interact with others on social media, especially and arguably primarily in conversations with non-believers.
But notice the reason James is so concerned with a Jesus follower’s ability to “bridle his tongue.” It is not so we can be a good example of real, active faith to a non-believing. No, the reason is so the Jesus follower doesn’t “deceive his heart” and find his “religion is worthless.”
Some of the people I am beginning to value most in my life are those who speak sparingly. You know these people. When they speak, everyone in the room seems to sit up and take extra care to listen, knowing the speaker doesn’t waste words and all they say is beneficial for all. I want to be one of those people and James goes as far to say that if we are incapable of being someone like that we are incapable of following Jesus.
Questions for Prayer and Application
1. What role does anger play in your life? What currently makes you angry? Do you think it’s possible to have a “righteous anger?” Ask God to help you be slow to anger. If you’re unsure of what that looks like, think of someone in your life who you can’t remember seeing get very angry. Start with trying to be more like them.
2. James says when a Jesus follower hears the word of God and doesn’t do what it says it’s like someone who looks at themselves in the mirror and then immediately forgets what they look like. In what ways is this an accurate description of your life? Identify some areas you can grow in and seek out the help of some people you know succeed in those areas. For example, if you want to become more patient, have coffee with someone you know to be patient and ask them how they do it.
3. On a scale of 1-10, how strong would you rate your ability to control your speech? What about what you post on social media? You can delete a tweet but if someone saw it the damage is done. Spend a few moments in prayer, asking God to help you see clearly if you need to make changes in this area of your life. Consider taking a social media fast, logging off all your accounts for 1, 3, or even 7 days. Remember, this is not about what other people think but so you don’t deceive yourself.