“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:”
What a great piece of advice we find in this text. It speaks of things we are all acquainted with and tells us where we can go wrong in the way we respond or react.
He begins by telling “every man” to be “swift to hear.” We need to be deliberate and purposeful listeners. One thing that causes us grief is when we react without really hearing the whole story. Have you tried explaining something to someone, and before you really got started, he had already formed an opinion about the situation, with only a minimum of facts? This is being quick to respond, but not “swift to hear.” Proverbs 18:13 says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” Being a good listener is something that we have to develop and work on. Some people cannot hear what they are being told because their mind is actively planning what they are going to say in response. There will be plenty of time for talking, but first train yourself to listen.
James then admonishes us to be “slow to speak.” Speaking too quickly can create real problems. Words cannot be withdrawn. Therefore, it is wise to think about it before speaking. Make sure it is something you want to say or that needs to be said. One cannot make those kinds of decisions when he is quick to answer rather than being “slow to speak.” Everyone has an opinion, but everyone does not have to express it. Saying nothing is much better than saying the wrong thing. The Bible has much to say about the problems caused by too many words. For instance, Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Let’s learn to be “slow to speak.”
Then we are told to be “slow to wrath.” A person who is easily angered is destined for trouble. Proverbs 14:17 tells us, “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly.” When one is out of control, he often says things that shouldn’t be said, as well as things that he really doesn’t even mean.
If we would be honest, we would have to admit that we sometimes do the very opposite of what James tells us. We are slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to get angry. We need more self-control. As we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit, He helps us respond to situations in a way that honors the Lord.