Blake Allen, Dunbar Cave Campus Pastor LHBC
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Have you noticed that people are more and more angry then ever before? Consider the following…
One anger management firm stated that “one out of every five Americans has an anger management problem.” According to FBI statistics, there were 23,305 homicides in 1994 and the most common reason was arguments occurring in the home (28%). Gang related killings accounted for only 7.6%. Anger related violence is the reason stated for 22% of divorces of middle-class marriages. Studies show that 79% of violent children witnessed some form of violence between their parents. From 1995 to 2001 there were 1655 incidents of “air rage,” directing anger toward airline employees – according to FAA records. The phrase “road rage” officially entered the English language in 1997 when it was first listed in the New Words edition of the OED (Oxford English Dictionary). Why do we need a new word? In Atlanta, Georgia a two-year old toddler was shot through the neck by an irate motorist engaged in an argument over a road incident with the toddler’s father.
Why is it so hard to manage our anger? Most times, it is a heart issue. When expectations are not met and things don’t happen the way we want, we get angry. At that point, we don’t care to consider the other person we are angry with. We don’t care about their opinions, feelings, and wellbeing when we are angry with them. We would rather get our point across than take the time to consider the other person’s opinion. It’s easier to be angry than seek peace. But anger does not produce the righteousness of God. So, how do we put away anger and seek peace with one another? I think James gives us three things to consider:
Be Quick to Listen
I think it’s human nature for us to speak before we listen. We all have an opinion about something and we want our opinion to be heard and known. We get these ideas in our heads: “I am right. They are wrong. My idea is better. I have the answer. Why don’t they just listen to me.” All the while, the other person is sitting there thinking: “I am right. They are wrong. My idea is better. I have the answer. Why don’t they just listen to me.” How do we make any progress in our conversations if both parties think they are right?
We must learn to be quick to listen. It reminds me of a story of a parent who went to go talk to their child’s teacher. The parent was upset because the teacher gave her kid a failing grade on a assignment. The child was supposed to make a presentation but was not present that day. The teacher offered the opportunity for the child to make it up and extended the due date to the last day of class. For some reason, the child was not able to present until the very last day of class. However, the teacher was out that day due to a personal matter. After receiving the failing grade, the parent was enraged because of the teacher’s promise to the kid that they had until the very last day of school to make the presentation. She began to release her frustrations upon the teacher, trying to make her feel bad for failing her kid. After several minutes of going off on this teacher, the teacher then informed the parent she gave several opportunities for the kid to make up the assignment. This only set the parent back off and the unrelenting anger continued. Finally, the parent asked the teacher why she was out on the last day of school anyways. The teacher then told the parent her husband had committed suicide and she had to bury him that day. This was the personal matter… The parent immediately felt shame for how she acted towards the teacher.
We can’t assume people’s intentions. Maybe they had a bad day at work. Maybe they just lost a loved one. Maybe they are struggle with depression. Maybe an illness. But we may never know if we never stop to listen.
Slow to Speak
Why do we feel the need to speak first? I am reminded of God’s words when I think about this: “The first will be last and the last will be first”. “Count others more important than yourselves”. “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God”. “Be slow to anger, slow to speak.”
Yet often times, we are not humble. We don’t count others as more important than ourselves. As a result, we are not slow to speak. Many times we don’t hear God speaking because we are too busy talking. We must learn to be slow to speak and quick to listen.
Slow to Become Angry
James reminds us that anger does not produce the righteousness of God. We are called to bear the image of Christ and be imitators of Him. He deserves an attitude of worship. If we say we follow Jesus, we are to represent Him in everything. This includes our attitudes. Sure, we all face frustrating situations. But the Bible teaches us to be angry and do not sin (Ephe 4:26). How do we do this? Be slow to speak and quick to listen. Listen to others by counting them more important that yourself. Listen to God. Take your problems to Him and listen to the Holy Spirit. If we speak at all, speak Jesus.
When you speak Jesus and live out your beliefs about Christ, it is easier to be slow to anger, slow to speak, and quick to listen. You may not think someone is worth the time or deserves such patience. But neither did you deserve the mercy and patience of God. Thankfully, Jesus was patient with us. He forgives us and calls us to forgive. He was patient with us and calls us to be patient with others. He was slow to wrath towards us and calls us to be slow to anger as well. Jesus took the wrath and punishment we deserve on the cross. He died to set us free from sins like unrighteous anger. Therefore, be slow to speak. Be slow to anger. Be quick to listen.
PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, help us to put away all that does not produce your righteousness. May we put away anger and malice and put on the righteousness of Jesus. Amen.
MEMORY VERSE OF THE WEEK:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.