The Main Thing – James 1:19-21
So then, how are we to respond in times of testing and temptation? We need to respond with the wisdom that God gives. He has already reminded us that we need wisdom in our lives every day to deal with our temptations and that God will give it to those who ask. Now he is showing us what that wisdom looks like when we live it out.
First, he’s telling us that we can’t just get angry. The proper response to temptation is never just to get mad about it. Instead, we need to slow down. I like how he uses a play on words here. When someone gets angry at the drop of a hat we say that they are quick-tempered. Makes sense, right? They have a quick, angry response. What James is saying is that we need to respond quickly, not with anger but with listening. Whoa?! What a change that would be. Yeah, this is how wisdom acts. Wisdom slows down and listens. I mean how many arguments have you been in or how many situations have you lost your temper because you were simply misinformed? You didn’t stop and think about what was happening. Instead, you made quick judgments and lost it.
Secondly, we see that to act wisely means that you slow down before you speak. This would naturally happen if we followed step one and listened quickly. It makes so much sense. We need to make sure that we understand a situation well, then we can speak about it in an informed way. All too often we spout off the first thing that comes to our mind then immediately regret what we have said. A wise man avoids these types of regrets.
Lastly, he says that we need to be slow to anger. I appreciate this because he doesn’t tell us never to get angry. Surely, there are times in our lives where we should be angry. We know that God hates sin. And if we are to be more like Jesus then we need to love the things that He loves and hate the things that He hates. When Jesus got angry and cleared the temple, He wasn’t acting sinfully or foolishly. He was angry at how people were turning this sacred place into a “den of thieves”. He intentionally made a whip of cords and acting in His controlled mind; He drove them out.
The reason why we can’t just fly off the handle at any time is that our anger needs to match the anger of God. Man’s anger is selfish and sinful, but God’s anger is righteous and just. James makes that clear when he tells us that man’s anger does not produce the righteousness of God. It can’t because it’s filled with sin and folly.
He finishes this paragraph with two commands that act as a conclusion. We are to receive the word of God in meekness because it can save our souls. We need to be constantly filling up our souls with God’s word. James even goes so far as to say that God’s Word has been implanted in us. What a gracious God we serve that saves us and fills us with Himself so that we can have the ability to live like Jesus. To do this, we also need to be actively putting negative influences out of our lives. We need to take off all uncleanness and evil and replace it with God’s Truth. When God reveals our sin to us we need to repent and forsake it. If we continue in this, we will become more like Jesus and will respond in the same way that He would to our trials and temptations.