Jas 1:19-22 “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
Verse nineteen refers back to the previous verse (Wherefore), where we have been told that God has begotten us of His own will with the word of truth. As a result of that truth, we, beloved family, should be swift to hear. We should be prompt and always ready to hear the word of truth that God reveals to us by the working of the Holy Ghost. Remember that revelation comes from God; no preacher ever revealed anything to you. If you gained a better understanding of God’s word through something He blessed the preacher to say it is ok to tell (and encourage) him, but reserve your praise for God who gave utterance.
We should be always ready to hear, but we need to consider our words before speaking. Unfortunately, we all too often seem to have these concepts in reverse; we half listen to what’s being said and then launch full bore into our comments or rebuttal. This not only gets us into a lot of trouble and misunderstandings, but it is ungodly. We have failed to wait upon the Lord and pushed forward with our own understanding (Pro 3:5).
Often, when we are so quick to reply, it is because something that was said “struck a nerve.” We are quick to speak because our anger was quickly kindled by what was said. There is a big difference between truly righteous indignation and carnal anger. Being slow to speak gives us time to truly consider what was said. If it was the truth, even if it rebuked us, giving proper consideration will temper our response. We will be less likely to let our initial anger take the lead.
Just because it was a rebuke did not mean we did not need to hear it or that we could not profit from it. If it was a rebuke from the Lord we can be assured that we did need to hear it and it is for our good. The self-righteous anger of mankind never performs the righteousness of God. When we go off half-cocked, we will always fail in performing the righteousness of God. Possessing the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ (which is ours by His death) is not the same as behaving righteously in His kingdom here.
Being swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger will lead us to the working of the righteousness of God. This leads us to another result; we have the ability to cast off our moral filthiness and abundant depravity. Receiving the implanted word of truth from God with humility enables us to overcome our fleshly nature while we live here. We are not going to become sinless, because if we were sinless we would have nothing to overcome. The instruction here is not about becoming children of God; it is about living as the children of God because of all that Jesus has already overcome for us.
The implanted word of truth that we receive from God according to His own will has the ability to deliver (save) us. This is not to be confused with the saving we received from Jesus the Word when He died for our sins. Jesus’ death on the cross did not simply have the ability to save us; His death did save us and make us fit inhabitants for Eternal Heaven. However, being yet sinners in this world, we have need of daily deliverance in this world.
When we are swift to hear His word and diligent to consider it, we will find our souls (beings) saved often from unproductive anger, hurting those around us, and failing in our service to God. Our souls will be saved to peace, joy, and love in the Holy Spirit here in this kingdom. The distress of this world will be swallowed up in the victory of our abundant life in Jesus Christ. However, we cannot expect this outcome if we are only hearers of the word.
When we are swift to hear, but slow to speak, it indicates that we are giving diligent consideration to what we have heard. Once the Spirit assures us that the word we hear is from Him, we need to step out in that word and become a doer. There is a great deception that takes place when we are content to just be hearers of the word. We are tempted to soothe ourselves with the idea that we have heard; we have considered; we have not become angry. That is all well and good, but what are we doing with what we have heard. If the word of truth is not motivating us to take action in our own lives, we are deceiving ourselves. The righteousness of God is not in hearing the word, but in hearing and doing the word.
May the God of all grace deliver us from our self-deceit and make us doers of His word to His glory and the edifying of His kingdom!