Hearing and Obeying
19 My dear friends, you should be quick to listen and slow to speak or to get angry. 20If you are angry, you cannot do any of the good things God wants done. 21You must stop doing anything immoral or evil. Instead be humble and accept the message planted in you to save you.
22Obey God's message! Don't fool yourselves by just listening to it. 23If you hear the message and don't obey it, you are like people who stare at themselves in a mirror 24and forget what they look like as soon as they leave. 25But you must never stop looking at the perfect law that sets you free. God will bless you in everything you do, if you listen and obey, and don't just hear and forget.
26If you think you are being religious, but can't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is useless. 27Religion that pleases God the Father must be pure and spotless. You must help needy orphans and widows and not let this world make you evil.
Have you ever taken a sip of concentrated juice before the water has been added! Your taste buds explode because of the concentrate. These verses from James are like concentrate. Filled with wisdom to help you and me live a life that brings God and other people pleasure.
The passage begins and ends with a key theme. “My dear friends, you should be quick to listen and slow to speak or to get angry…” (v 19). How often have you experienced speaking too quickly and disrupting a conversation or even a relationship? What about anger? Do you fly off the handle too quickly?
If we just ‘hear’ God’s word and ‘do’ nothing with it we are like someone who looks in a mirror, walks away and forgets what they look like. Like people who hear what is right over and over yet lack the desire to change their behaviour.
Pure ‘doing’ we are told, would be exemplified by visiting orphans and widows. The wisdom here is that putting ourselves with others less fortunate becomes a mirror in our lives. In my association with World Vision I have seen first hand the devastating effects of poverty. I have been deeply moved by a widowed mother who cries in appreciation when she meets her child’s sponsor. The eyes of a malnourished child just longing for life in all of its fullness, but struggling to live another day. These images are so intense in my memory they are like a mirror allowing me to actually see who I am in their presence.
The images are sometimes too deep for expression. When I see their lives in contrast to mine I am slower to anger.
Lord Jesus, I want to walk with you intimately, day by day. Forgive me for times when my pride and enthusiasm cause me to speak quickly. Soften me towards the suffering and underprivileged, not to patronize but to have them mirror back to me who I am, and who you want me to be.