Today we’ll continue our study in James 1 by looking at how our actions should change because of God’s goodness to us.
Jam. 1:19-21 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: (20) For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (21) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
The wherefore at the beginning of this passage point back to what James has said in earlier verses:
- God is the giver of every good gift.
- It was God’s will to save us by His Word.
- He saved us to honor His name.
For all these reasons, we should live differently.
Swift to Hear…
The first thing we need to do is learn to listen more and talk less. Who or what are we supposed t listen to, though? Well, the most obvious answer is “the engrafted word,” God’s Word mentioned in verse 21. I think there is also a hint of being willing to hear what others have to say, too. That’s because of the other commands to be “slow to speak, slow to wrath,” which seem to be commands about dealings between people That is, instead of getting mad at others, hear what they have to say. Paul put it this way:
Eph. 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
And Peter expressed it like this:
1Pe. 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
James comes back to this topic later in chapter 3 in verses 13 to 18.
James follows up the command to be “slow to wrath” with an explanation. Man’s wrath doesn’t produce God’s righteousness. Moses experienced this personally (Act. 7:22-29). His wrath didn’t accomplish God’s righteousness. It’s like those who hate abortion so they assassinate abortion doctors. Their anger is understandable, but their actions are indefensible.
Psa. 37:7-9 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. (8) Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. (9) For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
Filthiness and Superfluity of Naughtiness
We defined these words on day 2 of our study as moral uncleanness and the abundance, or overflow, of wickedness. We are to lay aside anything that is unclean, anything that makes us spiritually dirty. James isn’t saying that it is OK to be a little wicked as long as we don’t allow an abundance of wickedness in our lives. Rather, he is saying that all of us have an abundance of wickedness that overflows and spills out of our lives and we need to master it.
The Engrafted Word
One important part of setting aside our sins is to submit ourselves humbly to the Scriptures. “The engrafted word,” is an interesting phrase. This word was already part of James’ audience. It was grafted into their lives and it had saved their souls. Now they just needed to obey what they already knew. Peter wrote something similar to his readers:
2Pe. 1:12 Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.
He reminded them of what they already knew – truths they were established in. Isn’t that usually what we need? Not new truth, but reminders to apply the truth we already know. As we’ll see in tomorrow’s study, knowing and doing are not the same.
How’s It Going?
- Does “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” describe you?
- Are you trying to use your wrath to accomplish God’s righteousness?
- Are you living a God honoring life by obeying what you already know of the Bible?
Read James 1:22-25. You might want to review the section about “the perfect law of liberty” from day three of this study