James 1:19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
The Bible shows us that Christians are created in Christ Jesus to demonstrate true love for one another. We know that Christians do not always show that love properly. However, God’s design for His children is that they demonstrate the love that He has placed inside them.
One of the ways we demonstrate that love is by being swift to hear and slow to speak, slow to wrath. Jesus demonstrated His willingness to listen to His disciples. He listened to Mary and Martha. He listened to other saints as well. Of course we know that Jesus also was willing to listen to unbelievers. He heard the Pharisees’ lies and false accusations made against Him. He was always right in His response to each person who spoke to Him. Jesus never had to apologize to anyone. He is the true Son of God. He showed us how to live as saved people in a sin-cursed world.
Sometimes we can want to fire back at some person who we believe has spoken out of turn. We need to be sure we listen well and then respond with the right words and the right attitude. We need to be careful that we do not allow our emotions to take over.
The context here is first of all to brethren. Brethren need to hear what another brother has to say. We cannot help the brother if we will not listen to what he has to say. God will give us discernment to hear and to respond properly. We need to ask for it and respond to it properly.
Paul heard and saw what Peter was doing in Galatians 2. He had the facts and he then rebuked Peter for his sin. Paul also heard what king Agrippa said to him when he stated that he was almost persuaded to be a Christian. Paul addressed that situation properly as well. He gave the king further opportunity to consider his need to be saved.
Verse 20 of our text shows us that the wrath of man does not advance the cause of Christ. The righteousness of God is not revealed when God’s people get in the flesh. It is revealed when God’s people walk humbly with Him and are willing to be falsely accused if that is the case. They also need to be willing to be corrected when needed.
Godly relationships are important. The lost need to see that. The lost know the art of compromise. They may learn the art of “negotiation” where they learn which words to use and which words to avoid in discussion. The lost have developed new words to avoid using the word lie or liar. They talk of misinformation and disinformation or they say someone misspoke.
Christians speak the truth and need to learn to speak words that are pleasing to the Lord. Those words may not be pleasing to men, but they must be pleasing to the Lord. The truth is always important.
In verse 21 the brethren are encouraged to lay apart some things. Again we are reminded that God does not make robots. Every true child of God has the ability to make choices. God changes the nature of the true child of God. The true child of God must choose to act within the parameters of that new nature he has been given, or revert back to the flesh.
James was directed to mention filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness. These terms relate back to what has already been stated in verse 19. When the saint is in the flesh, they will say things they should not say. They may be quick to become angry and then say things they would not otherwise say. God calls wrong talk in this regard filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness. Wrong talk defiles the heart and soul of the speaker. It can also do great harm to the one being slandered.
We know that God teaches elsewhere the importance of learning to be slandered without responding in the same manner.
It is true that a true child of God will not revert back to swearing. I remember years ago hearing a professing Christian talk about their deceased father. This person wanted to believe his father was a saved man and in heaven now. He admitted that his father swore a lot. He stated the reason for that was that he worked with many ungodly people. This conversation took place before I was saved. It was during a time in my life where I was doubting the existence of God and where I was searching for answers. I was the third person in this conversation. I was the listener and two others that I knew were doing the talking. To me it seemed strange, even as a lost person, to accept that a saved person could have a foul mouth that needed others to cover for him.
God’s Word shows us that a foul mouth is not excusable for the truly saved person. The saved person needs to be taught by saved people that swearing is not acceptable at all. When God saves a person, He changes the nature of that person and gives the person a greater sensitivity to sin. Psalm 119 deals with the effect the Word of God has on the heart and soul of the saved person.
The saved person needs to receive the engrafted word with meekness. A good definition for meekness is strength under God’s control. Jesus was described as being meek. Certainly we see strength in Jesus’ life. We see that strength expressed in many ways. It was always under God’s control. Jesus is God and never sinned.
Jesus described Moses as a meek man. He demonstrated strength under God’s control as well. As a man, he did not always exemplify meekness. He smote the rock twice when he was commanded to speak to the rock. He lost a great privilege because of that sin. However, he did not become a castaway. Moses learned this anger was unacceptable to God. He was forgiven and God still used him as the leader of the nation of Israel and he still functioned as a meek leader. That incident did not define Moses. It was an act in the flesh, but it did not keep Moses from being able to serve God. That is a picture of the mercy and grace of God.
The word “engrafted” speaks of something that is implanted. The Word of God needs to be implanted in the true child of God. It is the Word of God that will be the “governor” to remind the true saint of how he or she must behave.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
God’s word has the power to save the lost sinner and to guide the true saint.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
God’s Word can reach where no man can. God’s Word speaks to the very need of every person. God’s Word will also keep the true saint from saying foolish things if that person will listen to the engrafted Word. Memorize God’s Word. Let God’s Word be that needed governor in your heart and life. Take a deep breath before you answer in a way you know is not right. Humbly ask God to give you the right attitude and words in each situation.
Some people have a long history of being bullies. When that person gets saved, that old nature will rear its ugly head. If that person listens to God’s Word, He will guide that person to a different response now that they are saved.
The lost need to see the power of God at work. He changes the lost sinner into a saint. Saints are different and they are growing in the Lord. That needs to be the testimony of every true child of God. True saints do not just mellow out because they get older, they change because they have been given the gift of eternal life.