VERSE OF THE DAY
James 1:19 (New International Version)
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
To my dearly beloved and friends mark what I say. Everyone should be quick to hear and listen slow to speak and respond and slow to temper
What Does James 1:19 Mean? ►
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
Too often in life we discover the folly of opening our mouth and responding in careless haste to the words and actions of others and too often we react in annoyance or anger, only to discover that we had misunderstood the facts of the matter, causing us to regret that we spoke so quickly and reacted so hastily.
There are many scriptures that warn of the poison that can fall from the tongue and the damage that unguarded words or fiery tempers can produce, and others that advise us to listen to what is said, to hear what is spoken, to guard our lips in what we say and our reactions in all we do, which can so often spark a fire that harms so many people.
In this passage James was writing to warn believers against self-deception – and in particular he was encouraging them to pay careful heed to the Word of God for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
If our words and actions are to be seasoned with salt and honouring to our Father, we should especially be quick to hear the words of wisdom that comes from the Scriptures and to be wise in our response to God’s voice.
Sometimes we may not like what we hear and sometimes believers have been known to argue with God and become angry at His Word – but the wise man or woman will be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, particularly in the things of the Lord.
Loving heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word, and the wise instructions it contains. Help me to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, not only with those with whom I have to do – but also as it relates to You and Your Word, even on those occasions when I do not understand. Help me to be quick to hear Your voice – but slow to question Your perfect plans and purposes, in Jesus name I pray, AMEN.,
Listening, Taking Action, and Avoiding Anger (James 1:19–21)
Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project
James continues his practical guidance with words about listening. Christians need to listen well both to people (James 1:19) and to God (James 1:22–25). “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). We listen, not as a technique to influence anyone else, but as a way to let God’s word “rid [ourselves] of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness” (James 1:21). Interestingly, James suggests that listening to others—and not just listening to God’s word—is a means of ridding ourselves of wickedness. He does not say that other people speak God’s word to us. Instead, he says that listening to others removes the anger and arrogance that keep us from doing God’s word spoken in Scripture. “Your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. . . . Welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls” (James 1:20–21). When others speak words that we do not welcome—words of disagreement, criticism, dismissal—it is easy to respond in anger, especially in high-pressure situations at work. But doing so usually makes our position worse, and always discredits our witness as Christ’s servants. How much better to trust God to defend our position, rather than defending ourselves by angry, hasty speech.
This advice applies to all kinds of work and workplaces. Listening is well established in business literature as a crucial leadership skill.Businesses must listen carefully to their customers, employees, investors, communities, and other stakeholders. In order to meet people’s true needs, organizations need to listen to the people whose needs they hope to meet. This reminds us that the workplace can be fertile soil for God’s work, just as the Roman Empire was, hardship and persecution notwithstanding.
What does it mean that we should be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19)?
James 1:19–20 says, “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.” Being “quick to listen” means that we train ourselves to wait for the whole story before diving in with our opinion. “Slow to speak” is the flip side of that. We control our words and don’t blurt out everything that comes into our heads.
James goes on to talk about the tongue: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (James 1:26). Later, he warns us about controlling our tongues: “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:5–6).
Our mouths get us into a lot of trouble. We profess to believe one thing, but then we are often betrayed by what comes out of our mouths. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34).
When we discipline ourselves to listen more than we talk, we can learn a lot. Big talkers are hard to teach. They think they already know everything they need to know, and they constantly express their opinions. Wise people have learned that more wisdom can be gained by listening, observing, and not rushing to judgment. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”
The old adage is right: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” How many relationships have been damaged or ruined because we were slow to listen and quick to speak? How many mistakes could have been avoided had we only listened instead of talked?
We should be careful about the kinds of people we spend a lot of time listening to. Psalm 1 warns us not to listen to the foolish or the wicked. However, there are other people we should be quick to listen to:
• Elders because of their experience (Hebrews 13:17).
• Wise people because of their good advice (Proverbs 13:20).
• Godly people because they can represent God’s perspective on our situation (Psalm 141:5).
• Authorities because they represent the law (Romans 13:1).
Most of us are not naturally quick to listen, but we can train ourselves to be better listeners. Good listening is active. It engages with the speaker. It understands the speaker’s perspective, even if we disagree. When people feel heard, they are more willing to listen to our side. Being quick to listen actually opens the door to greater communication because listening shows respect, and when people feel respected, they are more likely to return that respect and listen to us. It is important for us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. God’s Word always shows us the best way, and when we follow it, we are blessed.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
The Letter of James – Second Edition: Pillar New Testament Commentary by Douglas Moo
More insights from your Bible study – Get Started with Logos Bible Software for Free!
What does it mean to count it all joy (James 1:2)?
What does it mean that God is the Father of lights (James 1:17)?
What is pure and undefiled religion (James 1:27)?
What does it mean to be doers of the Word in James 1:22?
What does it mean that every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17)?
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
Related Topics: Responding, Speech, Anger, Listening, All Topics…
Thoughts on Today’s Verse…
Have a brake on your tongue; hit the throttle on your ears. Let your angry email sit three days before responding and make sure you read it and edit it before you send it. Keep you mouth shut and your ears open. They all say the same thing. Now if we would just do it, wouldn’t the Christian community so much more blessed!
Mighty and Holy God, you are incredible — beyond my comprehending. How you put up with all the drivel, senseless and hurtful speech that I and your other children spew out is beyond my understanding. I ask that you release the Holy Spirit to convict my heart and guard my lips from any form of hurtful speech. I want my voice to be as much yours as my heart is. This I pray through Jesus. Amen.
The Thoughts and Prayer on Today’s Verse are written by Phil Ware. You can email questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What does James 1:19 mean?
The opening passage of James instructed believers to maintain trust in God, even during hard times. In fact, believers are to consider their hardships as “joy,” since trials are how God strengthens our faith. This raises the question of what it means to remain faithful to God—to continue to trust Him—even when the trials of life come our way. For one thing, those who trust God continue to obey Him. Starting in verse 19, James begins to describe what that obedience looks like.
Those who trust and obey God learn to adjust the speed of their listening and speaking. If God is truly in control, we can afford to take the time to understand. Rather than shooting from the hip, we can respond in a way that is helpful. Doubting that God is in control speeds up our mouth and slows down our mind.
As believers, we shouldn’t be obsessed with ensuring that we are heard and understood in order to get what we want. When we act according to our immediate desires, and our immediate reactions, we feel a lack of control. And when we feel like we’re losing control, we will get angry.
Notice that this is not a command to never feel anger. Anger is a human emotion that everyone experiences, and it can be justified. However, James’ instruction here makes it clear that we can learn to control—or at least slow down—our angry responses. In fact, to refuse to let anger control us is itself an act of faith. It is a choice to believe that the Father is in control, that He loves us, and that He is good.
The next verse makes clear why learning to control our anger is such a big deal.
James 1:19–27 emphasizes that those who truly trust God don’t settle for merely appearing religious. They give up trying to control the world with their words and their anger. They humbly receive the Word God has planted in them, listen to it, and proceed to do what it says. Part of what the Word says to us is that we should keep control over our words, to care for those who are weak and suffering, and to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world around us.
How important is it for Christians to trust God? It’s so important, James writes, that we should call our worst moments joyful things, because trials help us trust God more. People who trust God ask Him for wisdom—and then take what He gives. People who trust God make a bigger deal about their rewards in the next life than their wealth in this one. People who trust God don’t blame Him for their desire to sin; they give Him credit for all that is good in their lives. They look into His Word, and they act on what they see there