In my last James study post, I wrote of how we are adopted by Christ, this time we will talk about what we should do as His new children.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
"Wherefore" - because we were created and adopted by God. This should tell us something. What James is doing is saying that BECAUSE of what I just said, THIS is what comes next.
The verse comes to mind: "...what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." (Micah 6:8b) Salvation is not of works, but to show the world that we have faith we must use works. This is kinda sad when you think about it. Remember what Jesus did? "Many signs and wonders" according to the apostle John, and yet, some STILL didn't believe. Jesus said that blessed are those who do not see, and yet, believe! As human beings we like proof. We like tangible proof of things. Many take this to the extreme and worship idols that they can see instead of the true God who they cannot see. Therefore, in order to show God's power, Jesus worked many miracles to show the people, to give them tangible proof, that He was indeed the Son of God.
Now, we as believers, His hands and feet, must also give tangible proof. We do this by our words, actions, and attitude. Our prayer and desire should be that God would give us the words to say, the courage to say them, and that His light would CONSTANTLY shine through us in everything we do and say. I have written before on the topic of being a "inside only" Christian and being an "outside only" Christian, and the truth that only those who are both are true Christians. Granted, there are times when Christians must go into hiding "faith-wise" to save their lives and the lives of others in the face of persecution, but when you look deep you can see that they would be living out their faith to the whole world if that's what was best for those around them. At times like that, the best way you can be a witness is to do it in secret so that you can reach more people singularly before you are possibly caught.
Okay, that was an insanely long rabbit trail. Let's get back on the track...
James then exhorts his brethren (brothers and sisters in Christ because of our adoption): let every man be swift to hear - listen first, listen carefully, be polite, learn from others. Slow to speak - think about what you are going to say before you say it, make sure all your words are God glorifying. And slow to wrath - don't easily get into fights or get angry, be patient and loving. If you think about it, that covers just about everything. It covers just about every situation I can think of. In many tough situations, we tend to explode, and overall, we tend to do the opposite of all three of these exhortations. We want to be the only ones speaking (swift to hear), not letting anyone else get word in edgewise; we want to say everything we want no matter what it is (slow to speak); and we explode in anger and frustration (slow to wrath). This isn't what God wants for His children. Situations like this sadden our Father just as a naughty child saddens his father. When we do things against the nature of God, things against HIM, sinful things, we cause Him grief.
This saddens me. It makes me sad to think that I made my adoptive Father so sad by doing things I know I shouldn't have done. It makes me sad to think that He loved me so much that He gave His only Son to die in my place so that I could live with Him, and then I disregard all that and do what I want again. This is sad.
Instead of doing those things that sadden God, we should, as good children, do those things which make Him happy, those things which glorify Him and exalt His name. Out of gratitude alone, should we do this. Not because we feel like we have to, but because we LOVE Him. It's like a child who cleans up the house for his parents, when it is done out of love it is done with a good attitude and it brings a smile to his parents faces. On the other hand, it is like a child who cleans up the house just because his parents told him to, in many cases this command makes the child go through with this with a bad attitude.
People who are generally quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to wrath are the kind of people that are enjoyable to be around. These three attributes are those things which generally draw a line between believers and unbelievers. Why? Because believers love God and wish to do HIS will and not their OWN will. For this reason they are less self-centered and more God- and others-centered, they usually care more about others than themselves, and they wish to do what is pleasing in God's eyes.
You have probably heard the phrase "love is a verb", but have you ever thought of that phrase in light of your love for Christ and His love for you? His love was made manifest for you through His death. Now it's your turn. Does your love for Christ show through your words, actions, and attitude? Hmm. Might want to think about that one a bit.
James also adds that "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God". Being angry does not help you learn more about God and bring glory to Him, therefore, it is not beneficial, but rather, it can be very hurtful both to you and to others. Being angry does not show the world the glory of your adoptive Father, but rather it hides that identity behind your old sinful nature. That is not good. It not only denies you the opportunity to live for Christ, but it also causes you to cease growing in God/growing more like Him. Throughout our lives, yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, and minutely, we should be growing more like God as we grow closer to Him. When we sin we cause a rift in that relationship to form. This isn't good. This does not bring us closer to Him.
I hope you have really thought about the things spoken of in this post. This is a very important thing that every Christian should recognize consistently as they strive to live their lives for the glory of God. To Him be the glory, and may His light shine through us!
In Christ alone,