“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
Making a left turn out of a grocery store I accidentally cut off a driver. He was in my blindside therefore I did not see his vehicle when I merged into the lane. He was furious as he sped up and flew past me glaring into my car. At the next stop light he was in front of me and I could see him shuffling around in his car. Watching all the crazy videos online I figured this was the end of my life. I cut off the wrong guy with a short temper and now he was about to go all Rambo on me. Well he didn’t, but he managed to stick half of his body out of his car window facing me and yell out some crazy stuff I couldn’t make out. He was directing all his anger towards me because I accidentally cut him off. For anyone observing from a distance this man look like a nut case, his emotional reaction brought greater embarrassment to himself than 'teach me a lesson.'
While that situation was a bit humorous I sit back today and think how often does our lack of self control in difficult conditions look just as silly? Or how utterly ridiculous is it for us to respond poorly when emotionally involved? We never know the full story, but we are quick to draw up conclusions based on our perspective. We love making judgments calls on others, pointing the finger at what someone else did and never looking at ourselves.
I find this to be very true in my own life. I don’t necessarily burst into anger and curse out the first person I see, but I have responded emotionally to circumstances. I have let my pride get offended therefore I put up walls. I have let fear consume my thoughts and went to my “safe” zone which usually resulted in unhealthy relationships. I desired approval from others and did things I shouldn’t have to please them. Stress became my number one motivator and I worked myself sick emotionally, physically and spiritually. The times I did get angry I isolated myself and held it all in. Confusion in disorder drove me to manipulate a false understanding of control, where I did things my way. Being offended created distance between me and my community. When sad and depressed I simply put all shame and guilt on myself, diminishing my worth. These are only a few of many examples. The truth is we all fall short, we all feed into these emotions at one point or another.
Lets look at the two verses proceeding James 1:19 in light of each other:
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”
There is great wisdom in this scripture but I want to focus on the second half. Whenever I read “therefore” I know it’s about to be a game changing statement and I try to pay close attention. James is saying in my paraphrase: “Don’t be short tempered because that does not create what God wants in you. And because our anger produces stupidity well shake off the things that are causing your addiction, your unhealthy relationship, your bad temper, your judge mental thoughts, your pride…etc. God put His word inside of your heart, He planted it there, so cling on to that because it can save your marriage, it can save you from your addiction, it can save you from your depression and it can ultimately save your life!”
James is emphasizing here the necessity of God’s word in our lives. It needs to penetrate into our hearts to transform us from the inside out so that we are not reacting emotionally but we are grounded in God’s love. He says He is the vine and we are the branches and when we are so invested in Him we produce fruit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Accepting God’s word that is planted in our hearts means we are responding with these fruits and not road rage, depression, addiction, pride, deceit and so on. When a planted seed is watered and nurtured it grows. And growth implies something is healthy which then produces healthy fruit.
Therefore, what kind of fruit are you producing? Rage or love? How then is God’s word planted in your life? How are you feeding His seed in your heart? And how often do you water it and nurture it?