James 1:19-21

Posted by Matt Postiff May 30, 2017 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Bible Texts 
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.(James 1:19-21, NKJV)

Often, verse 19 is isolated from the context as a good piece of advice about how we should listen more than we speak. Although that is a good thought, it is not what the text is trying to convey.

Here, James is writing about receiving God's word. In verse 18 he told us that we were brought forth by the word of truth. In verse 21, he says we are to put away sin and receive with meekness the implanted word.

I take it then that what we need to swift to hear is God's word. We should be slow to speak out when we hear it (in other words, we think about it first and don't just shoot off at the mouth). And we should certainly not be upset by it--say when it confronts our sin or tells us how we need to improve our lives. Imagine the context of receiving the Word in a local church service. Someone that blurts out their displeasure at what they hear, or gets upset about it and walks away from the church, is not following this injunction by James. These responses do not produce God's desired righteousness in our lives.

Rather, we need to put aside bad responses to the Word and receive it meekly. It is what has saved our souls!

Of course, we can add in Scripture's other teaching about being discerning and not believing everything that every preacher says (1 John 4:1). We must be like Bereans (Acts 17:11). But we must give due respect to that Word.

The following verses instruct us HOW to do this. We must receive the Word with action--doing what it says to do, not just looking at it and going away unchanged. We must not receive it in such a way that we "think" ourselves to be religious while not actually following its commands.

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