Day 24: Listen Up
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Have you ever been around someone who was incredibly measured and economical with their words? It can be equal parts admirable and frustrating, especially if we’re hoping for an escalated response to something we’re experiencing. But in these two scriptures, James lays out three very practical characteristics of anyone claiming to be a follower of Jesus. Quick to listen. Slow to speak. Slow to become angry.
Very few of us probably read those characteristics and think, “Yep. That’s exactly how people would describe me.” Especially in the days we’re living in. It seems there are more people talking than ever, less people listening than ever, and exponentially more reasons to become angry than there once were. The Bible is clear that not all anger is sinful. There is a righteous anger that is zealous for the glory of God, but it is still to be an anger that doesn’t lead to sin. In contrast, the quick-tempered anger of the world leads to ill-spoken words and does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
How would your relationships be impacted today if you committed to listen first and speak last? How would it change the dynamic at your job? In your marriage? With your children? What if the people reading this devotional committed to being rigorously disciplined in this area for even a week by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit? Our relationships would no doubt be transformed. We’d hear things we’ve never heard, and understand people in a way we didn’t before.
This is the most divisive culture any of us have probably ever experienced. But God’s word remains as relevant to us today as the day James penned this letter. He exhorts us toward an entirely counter-cultural posture of listening and peace. Followers of Jesus don’t look like the world they’re in. We’re not products of the world, we’re followers of Jesus whose lives have been transformed by his Spirit. Our internal transformation enables us to live in a way sure to transform the world around us.
God, thank you that you are a God who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love toward your children. Please transform us by your grace into people who don’t blend into the culture around us, but instead, are people of peace who listen well and speak wisely.