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. 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.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
I love the fact that ‘silent’ and ‘listen’ are anagrams of each other but still need to ask myself if I have the balance right between them.
James puts his finger on the pulse in this section of his letter where he focusses on three things.
Listening more than we speak.
Being slow to anger
Living lives of transparent purity
with all arising from being doers of the Word.
This raises a number of challenges for us, yes even us who are believers, for it is all too easy to read without listening to what we read and even when we listen failing to put what we read into practice.
But there is a need to take one step further back and examine our reading habits. The modern world is submerged in reading material and therefore we have to be very selective. Clearly we need to read that which our work and careers require in order to be good employees, good workers good bosses, good parents.
Then there are books, papers, news media etc. that we choose to read to keep us informed of what is going on in the world. Without such input, it is hard to speak and think Christianly about such things, which clearly we are called to do.
Then we are likely to read material related to our hobbies and interests and all these things, and no doubt others, which contribute to us being good conversationalists (providing we heed James’ first line of advice), are important if we are to be able to speak freely and easily to others about Jesus and the gospel as we relate to where they are.
But surpassing them all in importance is our engagement with The Word for it is as we absorb the word, that we learn to listen, to control and modify our language and to live pure lives in a world where that is seen as just plain odd, by many.
This requires hard work. It requires time management and a desire to be God honouring in our lives. It involves seeing and hearing the ‘hard things’ that the Word says to us and ‘doing’ them, for says James
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
It seems an almost silly comparison but does it not drive the point home? Hearing and not doing is absurd and dangerous.
But there is blessing in everything for the one who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it.
The year 2021 is drawing rapidly to a close and we have just entered the season of Advent recalling Christ’s first coming and looking for his second. There is only one place where we can do that and it is in the Word.
As we prepare for 2022 do any of us need to review what place we give to that Word in our daily lives?