“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”
• James 1:19

Oh, the tongue.

How many countless feelings could have not been hurt had someone simply obeyed this basic commandment?

How much strife could have been avoided? How much energy could have not been drained? How much negativity could have been bypassed?

It isn’t an accident that the first thing James mentions in association with the tongue’s improper and undisciplined use is the anger that it results in.

As we look back over our past conflicts and experiences, chances are we discover that with most them, if not all of them, that negativity could have been avoided with a simple application of this principle—

Be quick to listen, slow to speak.

Why is this so difficult to obey? Why is the tongue so cunning a foe that he refuses and even evades our mastery? And how often do our good, godly intentions lead us into breaking this clear instruction?

The command is more difficult to obey than ever. We live in a day and age in which we think that everyone has the right to an opinion and the right to post that opinion. We have built these enormous social media platforms, invented for the sole purpose of posting our opinions on all manner of topics. We think it’s weird to not engage in this type of behavior.

Through our culture, we have taught that everyone should have an opinion and should have a place to post it. And that their opinion is valid and worthwhile and needed by the rest of the world.

It’s no wonder that this carries over into every other area of our lives. When our virtual lives are littered and punctuated by these huge shrines to ourselves, should we expect our actual lives to look any different?

We don’t listen. We just wait for our turns to speak.

We don’t look to understand. We just wait to be understood.

I don’t mean to be harsh, but that’s not what the Bible teaches.

Be quick to listen, slow to speak.

Who made us think our opinions were so valuable? Who made us think they needed to be stated without the invaluable discipline of first listening?

The book of James makes an alarming assertion all throughout its five chapters. It’s the same one that Solomon makes over and over in Proverbs. You can tell a person’s level of spiritual maturity based solely upon how they use their tongue. The tongue acts as a spiritual barometer.

How I wish this were taught more often. Some of the godliest people on the planet still have never managed to master their tongues. Some of the most seemingly religious among us start in with words before asking any questions or practicing the art of listening, and it is to their shame. It reveals their spiritual depravity. And I am chief among them.

“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.”
• Psalm 141:3

Lord, help us take inventory of every word spent today. Take captive every one. Help us be slow to speak, and quick to listen.

Make me a man of few, but carefully chosen, words.


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