Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
- James 1:19-21
The Pateller Reflex assesses a few nervous tissues of the spinal cord. It’s better known as the knee-jerk test. Watching so many times in animated cartoons and/or on programmed television always left me skeptical of the test. Even after taking the tests many times, I’d still remain uncertain of its effectiveness.
Yet, time and time again, applying the same pressure at the same point returned the same result. So much so, the knee-jerk reaction has become the most popular and accurate description of why there’s so much hostility. This is verified in the daily interactions that take place in the realm of social media!
When the Apostle James ask believers to be “quick to hear,” it is more than waiting to respond to a post or tweet. It is also waiting to post or tweet. Most tempting in this revolutionary age of information is to be the “first” to share the information. Unfortunately, verifying the details of that post/tweet gets sacrificed to be bleeding-edge relevant.
People pronounce judgment without the facts because their emotions and predispositions have already summarized the event(s). No matter how unsubstantiated the claim, the truth is drowned out by the turbulent waves of emotion. That’s why believers in Christ cannot forget the time independent words of the weeping prophet:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
- Jeremiah 17:9
Many can attest to being emotional but far too few are willing to confront the inherent flaws of allowing those emotions to lead them. No argument becomes a healthy discussion when emotions are left unchecked. Being quick to hear is essential to properly responding rather than overreacting.
Even as I work on these devotions, I would love to churn them out everyday. However, being rushed means that I’m not focused on listening. Our restlessness can be found in the fact that we constantly think about how we can improve circumstances in our life as though we had any control.
"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"
- Psalm 46:10
Being quick to hear allows us to be more in tuned with our Creator. My long breaks in each written devotion allows me to listen better. My posts are more driven in what is revealed to me rather than allowing a daily outpouring of my limited understanding of life and its relevance according to the Bible. But there must be the incessant process of reading the Word of God and listening to Him!
Being “slow to speak” is synonymous with being quick to hear. Like the Patellar, the tongue is eager to respond to any given situation. It’s so destructive that the Apostle James devotes future verses to the weight of how easily it can destroy. Had Christians, including myself, understood the depth of this dilemma, we’d walk around with a muzzles.
There other downfall of speaking without listening is that it drowns out the most significant of details. The best analogy is considering soldiers moving through terrain and the lookout detects a possible threat. What’s the first response? Fist up declaration an immediate stop in movement and sound, which includes talking. With heightened senses, the terrain is surveyed for anything out of the ordinary that prove lethal if not immediately recognized.
How much more, than when in a potentially fruitful discussion, can it be to withhold our “quick-witted” response? That even means not mentally processing our next response without fully understanding the whole situation. Speaking out of turn or without listening can have damaging effects to relationship. We often do so now with the destructive ideology that says everyone must be heard!
As everyone tries to talk over each other, emotions rise and the powder keg of anger finally erupts. The Apostle James wisely adds anger as the final stage of a conversation built on the inability of its contributors to hear. Not being heard can and will lead to frustration and most people are unable to properly cope with their emotions. Anger always rears its ugly head and the nuclear fallout is devastating.
Being slow to anger is critical because anger can create a much bigger problem than the original subject at hand; if not contained. Anger is the result when we feel that our words were not effective in communicating our point. Anger calculates the amount of vengeance and the blast radius for destruction. Anger, humanly speaking, is the act of desperation.
How do we temper such a destructive force?
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, - Ephesians 5:18
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. - Romans 12:2
Allowing the Word and Spirit of God to guide, lead and control us us how we overcome such a destructive force in our lives. The Apostle James says it best:
Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. - James 1:21
If we are truly converted to a faith in Christ, the Word of God is changing us for the better. If it is not penetrating our soul, then we’re less malleable than we presumed. If our reflexes consist more of unbridled rage, we may need to re-evaluate our salvation or lack thereof.