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Quick to Hear, Slow to Speak, Slow to Anger

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We are to be eager to hear from God and others, slow to speak so that we do not say things in anger (slow to anger) because human anger does not produce a life that pleases God.

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James 1:19–20 ESV
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
James
Pray
Tell me the weirdest way someone (maybe a parent) has woke you up in the morning? (Give candy to the best)
I need two volunteers. One boy and one girl. Toothpaste activity (give volunteers candy).
So what’s the point of that activity? Some things can never be undone.
So there I was with two of my Iowa-parkians on our way from Lubbock to homecoming! Woohoo! If you’ve never made that drive then you don’t really quite get how boring and deserted it feels. Like you drive for 2 hours on a one-way. So as a passenger it is the type of road you sleep on. Get an hour power nap before the game. So I was voluntold to drive us to the game and we get about 45 minutes into the trip and they doze off. Now, you would never expect this from me - your youth pastor - but back in my day I was a bit of a prankster. So I let them get good and into their sleep - I was jamming to some Panic at the Disco - they hit the scene my freshman year of college. But I slowly lowered the volume - not to off - but to pleasant. And then took a deep breath in and screamed “aahhh”! They woke and if they had been in their 60’s or 70’s they may have went to be with the Lord from a heart attack.
Some things can be undone. Like shaving your eyebrows - Yeah, you may look like a 15 year old who just came out of mamma's womb, but it will grow back. And there are perps, like if your brother pranked you and shaved it off then he will have to live in fear for a long time. And you will be like “when you least expect it you will pay”. And then years have passed and he is up getting ready to marry his wife and you are his best man and the pastor say’s “speak now or forever hold your peace” you will be like - “you’ve been punked bro! She’s my girlfriend! Shouldn’t have shaved my eyebrow in 10th grade!
Transition: sometimes when you are just cruising along you need to be refocused, you need to be reminded, you need a call or shout to pay attention. And that’s exactly what we get here.
Some things can’t like toothpaste. Once it’s out; it’s out. So we normally handle toothpaste differently. Normally, we use like a pea to cashew size on our toothbrush before bed. We don’t normally put it onto an ice cream scoop and just (chomp) go to town.
Read with me again :
James 1:19 ESV
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
Know this, my beloved brothers” it could be said this way - “take note of this” which is how the NIV renders the verb. So James is writing this inspired and true and God-breathed letter to the persecuted church and as he is writing he’s like “oh and don’t forget...” take note of this, know this brothers.” We should be paying attention - it’s like we’re in the car cruising to IP, homecoming, and James is like “aahhh”!

1. Be Quick to Hear

The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James A. Hasty Speech and Anger Do Not Please God (1:19–20)

This general call to pay attention signals a pause in James’s argument as he switches from one topic to another.

Let every person be quick to hear...” We are terrible at this. If I was sitting with you 1-on-1 and we were having a discussion and I was talking - almost without a doubt everyone in this room would be thinking of a response as they halfway listened, rather than soaking in the conversation and then responding. Listening, really listening, is not a go to for me. Ask Katie. As someone who talks a lot for a living - as my job - I know how to form a solid argument in my mind very quickly, even as the person is not two-thirds through their argument. And this has got me in trouble on more than one occasion.
This admonition runs through the wisdom literature of the OT. Listen to what Kurt Richardson says about hearing:
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The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James A. Hasty Speech and Anger Do Not Please God (1:19–20)

The admonition to display wisdom by listening much and talking little is found quite often.

Do we desire or are we eager to listen to God and eager to obey?
The New American Commentary: James (1) Going Fast and Slow (1:19)

Wherever wisdom is the goal, hearing will be a first virtue.

Do you want to be wise? Do you want to have understanding? Do you want to have insight and discernment? A great place to start would be listening.
Hear what Solomon has to say about fools who listen:
Proverbs 17:28 ESV
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

Listen to God First

Primarily, chiefly students we need to be quick to listen to God - in His Word. Like we need to be eager to hear from Him.
I shared this with the JH SS class a couple of weeks ago, but I had a student call me to speak about where they should be reading in the bible. Then a few days later contact me to keep them accountable to be reading the Word. There’s a hunger in this student’s heart to hear. They are eager to receive what God has for them. Athletes - you know that feeling you have when you are lacing up your shoes and you walk out of the locker room and you can hear the crowd. You are eager to crack a helmet or get the ball down the court or you are ready for that first serve.
We need to be hearers of God - eager to hear with that type of holy anticipation and we need to obey.
Transition: Then, following on the heels of hearing from God first we must listen to others.

Listen to Others - Be Teachable

This one is not always so obvious. Sometimes we confuse listening and having questions with weakness - so rather, we act like we know it all and we don’t hear from anyone - like Lone Ranger’s. No. Be teachable. Hear from others. Listen to your parents. I would add listen to others, especially, when you are being corrected and rebuked. Don’t justify yourself. Be quick to hear.
Transition: so we want to be quick to hear God and obey and to hear from others - we want to be teachable. But look what else James calls us to do:
James 1:19 ESV
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
James 1:19

2. Slow to Speak and Slow to Anger

There is great wisdom in holding our tongue, especially when our temper is on the rise. See some of us just need to keep our mouths closed because opening them would prove us to be the fool that everyone knows that we are. That’s what is all about.
Proverbs 17:28 ESV
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
But in relationships like with your mom or dad, maybe a boyfriend or girlfriend you know from experience just how true these verses are. Uncontrollable anger leads to uncontrollable speech.
Okay, let’s have a little transparency here tonight: have you ever said something “in the heat of the moment” that immediately you regretted?
Look pop-psychologists will tell you that you cannot control your anger because it is an emotion - in fact, even some biblical scholars (if you can call them that) will tell you this. But hear what Douglas Moo says in response:
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James A. Hasty Speech and Anger Do Not Please God (1:19–20)

Emotions are the product of the entire person; and, by God’s grace and the work of the Spirit, the person can be transformed so as to bring emotions in line with God’s word and will.

All across the bible we are commanded to control or exercise emotions. Do not covet. Delight in the Lord. Be slow to anger. So what we see in this passage again is God commanding our entire life, including our emotions.
For you in here that have quick tempers - I am including myself in this one - holding your tongue is of tremendous value. When your blood boils and you want to verbally assault someone. You want to rip them to shreds with your words - we must look to the wisdom of Christ and heed this command to be slow to speak and slow to anger.
Application: here is where gossip seems to dominate girl culture. Girls you refuse to be listeners of God’s word and rather you speak hastily, not thinking of the horror of your sin or the damage that it will cause in the lives of the people you speak of. And you do this in groups and you feed of each other’s sinful energy and hate and your blood gets pumping and anger takes root. I’ve seen this played out in the life of many a teen girl.
Proverbs 17:28 ESV
Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
For the boys shrugging off this wisdom from Christ is where we do great harm to our name. Listen to :
Proverbs 22:1 ESV
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.
Coach Dave and Robot Fries. I didn’t want to listen, I was angry that they were punishing me for speaking back, so I said I don’t want to listen and do what y’all say because I don’t want to become your robot who would have to then in turn eat robot fries.
Application: That day I demonstrated the foolish and simple 16 year old that I was. I was not quick to listen, I was not slow to speak and I was not slow to anger. In my mind I thought I was smooth as a babies bottom, but in reality I showed all the coaches how big of an idiot I was and my name in their opinion was ruined for many years. I look back on that moment and wish that I would have been a ready listener. I wish that I would have been a slow commentator. I wish that I would have been further down the road in my Christ-likeness.
Look pop-pyschologists will tell you that you cannot control your anger because it is an emotion - in fact, even some biblical scholars (if you can call them that) will tell you this. But hear what Douglas Moo says in response:
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James A. Hasty Speech and Anger Do Not Please God (1:19–20)

Emotions are the product of the entire person; and, by God’s grace and the work of the Spirit, the person can be transformed so as to bring emotions in line with God’s word and will.

All across the bible we are commanded to control or exercise emotions. Do not covet. Delight in the Lord. Be slow to anger. So what we see in this passage again is God commanding our entire life, including our emotions.
We’ve all said things we’ve regretted. We all have. We are all sinners in need of a savior. We all have scars from sin and our only hope is Christ. He is our only refuge from the storm of judgment that awaits sinners.
But for those in Christ we must listen to God through His Word, we must rely on His Holy Spirit that lives within us and be teachable and we must be slow to speak and slow to anger and here is the reason James gives us, lets read it all:
James 1:19–20 ESV
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

3. Anger Generally Never Produces Authentic Christlikeness

Why? What is the motivation? What reason can you give me to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger?
Why? What is the motivation? What reason can you give me to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger?
Thinking on our series title - human anger does not produce authentic Christian living. In my flesh, in human anger I’ve never produced what God desires of me.
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James A. Hasty Speech and Anger Do Not Please God (1:19–20)

. Uncontrolled anger leads to uncontrolled speech. How often do we find ourselves regretting words spoken “in the heat of the moment”!

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James: An Introduction and Commentary a. An Exhortation regarding Speech and Anger (1:19–20)

All too often, it is uncontrolled anger at someone that leads us to speak too quickly and say too much.

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Proverbs 14:29 ESV
Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
So last season, Dillon and I watched the Cowboy’s lose a close one against Green Bay in the playoffs. It was heartbreaking. But you can ask him I lost it. I was mad and he was shocked.
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The New American Commentary: James (1) Going Fast and Slow (1:19)

The only way that peace can prevail with the “everyone” to whom the admonitions apply is to be ready listeners and slow commentators, especially in heated situations.

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The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James A. Hasty Speech and Anger Do Not Please God (1:19–20)

Psychologists will sometimes claim that emotions, since they are a natural product of the personality, cannot truly be controlled—only suppressed or ignored. But James’s exhortation here (and many similar biblical exhortations) presume differently. Emotions are the product of the entire person; and, by God’s grace and the work of the Spirit, the person can be transformed so as to bring emotions in line with God’s word and will.

Transition: and I can tell you, in confidence, that my in the flesh anger did not produce authentic Christlikeness in me. I didn’t throw my Cowboy’s hat across the room and then go “hey family, let us pray and have a bible study.” No. I pouted. I got mad at Katie for getting on to me. Human anger that comes from the flesh, that is, that doesn’t come from our sanctification in Jesus will never led us to be obedient to God. Yes, we may get angry and do something stupid - like punch through a window and then we may repent, but God didn’t want you to throw your hand through the window in the first place.
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The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James A. Hasty Speech and Anger Do Not Please God (1:19–20)

But the word “righteousness” in Jas. 1:20 must be understood in light of the verb that governs it. And the combination “do” or “produce” righteousness makes it very difficult to think that James could be referring to God’s act or gift of righteousness.

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The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James A. Hasty Speech and Anger Do Not Please God (1:19–20)

We are on firmer ground in thinking that James uses the phrase “produce righteousness” with the meaning it normally has in the Bible: do what God requires of his people.

The point James makes in this verse is very simple: human anger does not produce behavior that pleases God.
So is anger always wrong? Is there ever a time where we can legitimately be angry and sinless?
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James A. Hasty Speech and Anger Do Not Please God (1:19–20)

This meaning makes excellent sense in this verse. James’s very simple point is that human anger does not produce behavior that is pleasing to God. Presumably, he is thinking especially of different sinful acts, such as violence, murder (see Matt. 5:21–26 and Jas. 4:2–3), and especially, in this context, unwise speech, that stem from anger.

I think that the bible teaches there is such a thing as “righteous anger” or “righteous indignation.”
Listen to the words of Paul in :
Ephesians 4:26–27 ESV
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
Be angry and do not sin.” In the Greek the verb is in the positive imperative so it can be read “in your anger do not sin.” We tend to think of anger, in and of itself, as sinful, but that is not the case. If it was always sinful it would reflect poorly on God who is wrathful toward sin and Christ who felt anger multiple times in the gospel.
So how do we know the difference? How can we distinguish between the two?
Well, let’s take two examples:
Let’s think about abortion. The fact that in 2015 the state of Texas reported 55,287 abortions should cause us to be angry at sin. It should break our heart, it should move us to righteous anger that we want this type of sin done. That does not mean we blow up abortion clinics or disassociate with people who’ve had an abortion. It means that it is okay to hate that sin. It is okay to be angry at your own sinfulness. This is righteous anger. This is being angry and not sinning.
You do something that you shouldn’t have done at home - like missing curfew by 10 minutes. So, your parents give you consequences and then you get angry at them. This is the anger that comes from the flesh. This is the anger of man that does not lead to authentic Christlikeness.
So when we think of James saying:
James 1:20 ESV
for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
We have to understand that James is speaking as wisdom genre at this point. He is speaking proverbially. James intends for us to read his warning as a general truth that applies in most cases: human anger is not usually pleasing to God, because it leads to all kinds of sin - except when we throw in or and we see that there is a way to be angry and not sin.
But finally, notice what says at the end:
Ephesians 4:26–27 ESV
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
So yes, in your anger do not sin, but notice how Paul tries to help us see how shifty and tricky anger can be.

Put A Time Frame On Anger

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So let’s say you are mad about personal sin. Say you’ve lied to a friend and God convicts you of this and you are angry at the injustice you’ve done. Now in terms of we are to not let the sun go down on our anger - which means put a time frame on anger. Don’t let it stew. Don’t let it boil. Don’t let it fester - because you may go from being angry that you sinned to self-abasement or self-harm. This is what people in church history did - they hated their sin (and rightly so), but it led them to do things like throw themselves into thorn bushes or whip themselves when they sinned. Anger is tricky - it can shape from something Godly to ungodly if we don’t deal with it.
So if you are angry - don’t let anger fester. Don’t give it a long time to seethe. Grab your phone and put a timer on for 20 minutes than fess up to God. Don’t let the sun go down.

Anger is the Devil’s Open Door into Your Life

So here is the motivational tool for you to put off anger - even righteous anger after a time:
Ephesians 4:27 ESV
and give no opportunity to the devil.
Letting anger rest on you - walking around angry all the time is like giving Satan a key into your house. You might as well bake him cookies and serve him cold milk. You let anger rest on you Satan will use it to harm you and your relationships.
Conclusion
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James A. Hasty Speech and Anger Do Not Please God (1:19–20)

Does James intend to prohibit all anger of any kind—even what we sometimes called “righteous anger”? Probably not. James falls into the wisdom genre at this point. And wisdom sayings are notorious for the use of apparently absolute assertions in order to make a general, “proverbial” point. Qualification of that general truth is often found in other biblical contexts. So we can assume that James intends us to read his warning as a general truth that applies in most cases: human anger is not usually pleasing to God, leading as it does to all kinds of sins. That it can never be pleasing to God would be an interpretation that is insensitive to the style in which James writes at this point.

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So be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger because anger in most cases will not produce an authentic godliness in your life. Yes, we can feel anger without sinning, but even when we have righteous anger we must set a time limit on it for we don’t want Satan to have key into our life. Part of being an authentic follower of Christ is that you grow in holiness. Hear this word.
Ephesians 4:26–27 ESV
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
ephesians 4:26-27
Ephesians 4:26 ESV
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
Pray
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James: An Introduction and Commentary a. An Exhortation regarding Speech and Anger (1:19–20)

While James does not forbid all anger (there is a place for ‘righteous indignation’), he does prohibit the thoughtless, unrestrained temper that often leads to rash, harmful and irretrievable words (cf. also Eccl. 7:9).

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