On the evening of March 10, 1876 Alexander Graham Bell started a new age of communication. We have now progressed light years in technology which would seem like science fiction to the inventor! " But can you hear me now?" "Huh?" What did you say? The Redskins are on! The music is too loud! I'm on my I-Pad, cell-phone or computer!
James gives us 3 wisdom tips:
One, "Be quick to listen!" Listening requires our due diligence, an intentional attentiveness, and a putting aside of our own ego needs. We invite someone else's thoughts into the theater of our mind. It refuses to prepare a mental response as the other person is speaking.
Second, "Be slow to speak" not everything we say is that interesting! Don't be hasty to put your 2 cents in rather pray that God gives us the patience to use discretion in what we say. This allows the other person to feel heard and we won't say things we can't take back!
Third, "Be slow to anger" unchecked anger doesn't achieve the righteousness of God. Furthermore, it doesn't promote virtue and right decisions and often surfaces when we are stressed or anxious.
So what does James advise? Prepare our hearts by exposing it to the Word of God. Continuing with the theme of listening, he cautions us that hearing God' Word without living it is dangerous. It's like looking into a mirror and forgetting what we look like. We hear a sermon and immediately forget it! In a similar manner, we hear something from someone else and we dismiss it without reflection.
However if we look into the law of liberty and apply it, we will be blessed. True freedom is looking into God's mirror, the Scriptures, and responding to what we see! And how do we evaluate if we are really listening to God? James concludes with 3 ways: First: "Bridle your tongue!" Here are 5 toxic uses of the tongue:
1. Don't be a critic! A constant nit-picker who criticizes you as a person. You can never do right in the critic's eyes!
2. Are you passive-aggressive? Speaks sarcastically and then says "I'm kidding." Uses back-handed compliments and won't address an issue directly.
3. The Narcissist. Always pre-occupied in getting the first and last word.
Hates to compromise because that means he or she has to "share" attention
4. The Stonewaller. This person actually uses silence to get their way. Avoids communication to not deal with uncomfortable personal issues.
5. Anti-social personality seeks to dominate with their tongue. Keep control in the relationship. Often explosive in temperament.
Second, if we are really listening to God then we are listening to the cries of the needy, especially widows and orphans. We are called to care for those who can't care for themselves.
Third, if we want to hear God, then we won't get involved in things that pollute our listening to his voice.
When it is all said and done, are we willing to look into God's mirror and allow it to change us?
PRACTICE: Developing listening skills
THOUGHT: How do we put the Word to work in everyday life, as evidenced by our conduct?
Word: James 1:19-27
In these verses, James introduces us to the dangerous power of the human tongue, and the part it plays as God’s Word is implanted in us. What’s our big assignment this week? Lock down our lips and listen!
Our words don’t just convey information; words do things, change things, can bring about a new and lasting state of affairs. So, in this passage we see God’s Word going to work and at the same time we hear a warning about our human words going to work in a different direction. James has been emphasizing the need for patience, he now emphasizes the danger of human anger. Does our conduct show, we welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save our souls? (v. 21)
Anyone recently gotten caught not listening? Does anyone doodle your way through a conference call and then have no idea what to say when it’s your turn to talk? Or, on the other hand, is it always your turn to talk? Reread verse 19. Note the three imperatives listed. Check the one that is most challenging to your natural personality.
Be quick to __________________________
Be slow to ___________________________
Be slow to ___________________________
This week intentionally give others the gift of being slow to speak. Easier said than done! Notice how implanting God’s Word in everyday life affects both our conduct and the conduct of others.
Listen. Wait. Respond. How many of our conflicts would dissolve or never even materialize if we:
- Listened to really understanda person’s concern or complaint,
- Waited... till our typically wrong initial impulse passed, till we’ve prayed, till we’ve asked clarifying questions,
- And thenresponded with patience, graciousness, honesty, clarity, and, if possible, brevity?
MEMORIZE: James 1:19 from The Message
Post this at all the intersections, dear friends; Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.
Additional Scripture helps:
Proverbs 17: 27,28 One who spares words is knowledgeable; one who is cool in spirit has understanding. Even fools who keep silent are considered wise; when they close their lips, they are deemed intelligent.
Ephesians 4: 30 - 32 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Being meek (humble), helps us accept and obey what God says in His Word. When we’re meek, we quickly seek help from God rather than trusting in our own abilities. Some people think meekness and humility equal weakness. It’s just not true, and Jesus is the perfect example. Jesus was humble—but He wasn’t cowardly or incompetent. Instead He was courageous and bold. And, in meekness, we can be too. Take time to think about one internal or external obstacle that keeps you from following the instructions of James—quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. Don’t just call it “sin”; think specifically about what holds you back. Pray about these specific obstacles, asking God to help you jump over them.
A Prayer for this week:
Father, whatever it takes make me humble so that I am quick to hear others.
I want to grow in this grace.
Father, whatever it takes teach me to love so that I am slow to speak in a moment of tension.
I need to grow in this grace.
Father, whatever it takes help me respond to discord with gracious words.
I believe your grace is enough.
Being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry is very hard.
But thank you, God, that “what is impossible with human beings is possible with God”.
Help me to listen, wait, and respond in the spirit of James 1: 19 so I may participate in the
implanting of your Word by what I don’t say and by how I respond to others.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.