Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. (James 1:19–21, NLT)
God has given us two ears, but one tongue, to show that we should be swift to hear, but slow to speak. God has set a double fence before the tongue, the teeth and the lips, to teach us to be wary that we offend not with our tongue.
— Thomas Watson
I’ve never been a fast runner. I usually finished near the back when running laps in football practice and my younger brother Josh could usually get away from me whenever he needed to. But in today’s passage, being slow is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s commended. When it comes to our speech and anger, slow and steady wins the race. However, that’s not the typical response for many of us. We want to chime in, we want to be heard, we’ve got to get that jab in or let them know what the real facts are. But James cautions us against foolishly quick words. If we are easily angered and lash out with our tongue, we will not be able to achieve the righteous life that God desires.
On the other hand, if you want to be fast at something, be a world class sprinter in the field of listening. Oh how many of our conflicts could be resolved if we took the time to listen to the other person. All too often we love the sound coming from our voice drowning out the other person. Don’t be like that. Listen, be understanding and empathize. A fast listener — that’ s the kind of speed God’s looking for.