Last evening I had the privilege of listening to a sermon on James 1:19-21. A good friend and brother of mine is currently doing an expository teaching through the book. I'm always encouraging him to take his time and not rush through anything. Last night was a perfect example of why. He threaded that needle in a way that I've never seen.
The teaching centered in on being swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. What I had never gleaned though was the contextual meaning. It was all dealing with hearing the Word, Law, or the Message of Truth. I always took the text to be speaking in a general way, but that's what often comes when we take "one liners" out of context to make them say something they were never intended to say.
We should be swift to hear the Word. Eager. Ready. Willing. On the edge of our seat. Like the Bereans (Acts 17:10-11). We should want to listen in order to learn. When the Word is taught or read or sang, our antennas should go up for reception.
We should be slow to speak the Word. This is the context, branching out of James 1:18 and falling on the heels of being swift to hear. What does it mean, slow to speak the Word? Well, it means being careful and cautious. One doesn't need to try to explain something they don't understand. We must be willing to diligently study a matter out and understand it before speaking. This takes time. It's a slow process.
We must also be slow to wrath. Wrath (or anger) here means resentment when hearing the Word that "rubs us the wrong way" or "cuts." We may listen to someone speak from the Word and it may be the first time we've ever heard it. It may just go against our grain, but we must be slow to resent it before examination. When the Word cuts us, when the law kills us, when our sin is exposed, we must not try to stop the knife, but allow it to do what it needs to do.
As I was listening to this all be taught last night, my mind was racing. I knew it was all truth. It resonated with my spirit and was exegeted properly from the biblical text. The problem was that my mind always has the tendency to focus on others that I think need to hear the sermon. I sit there hoping that this brother or that sister, "gets it."
As I sat there last night and my mind wandered in this direction, I was rebuked by the Holy Spirit. I soon began thinking of myself. See, I'm not in charge of who else sees, but I know when I can see. I can't prick another's heart, but I know when my heart is pricked. I can't decide to obey with my neighbors mind, but I can make up my own mind. My focus must be on me. Not in a selfish way, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that instead of worrying about who else follows through with the teaching they've just heard, I should focus on making sure I make an effort.
I have learned (and am still learning) that people really aren't ready to listen until they are ready to ask. What I mean here is that I've been in places where I have tried to make someone see a biblical truth, and it's like trying to feed a steak to a newborn baby. However, if over time they observe me practicing my beliefs, they usually come to me and ask questions. The key is that this only happens if I've been focusing on myself. Focusing on myself enables me to be more effective in helping others. I tend to think it should be the other way around. "Let me focus on others. This is the way I will help THEM." But that's not how it works. You help others by focusing on yourself. I can't remove a speck from someone else's eye when there's a beam in my own eye.
I want to focus more on what Matthew should be doing. It's easy for me to point fingers at other people. It's easy for me to condemn and be judgmental, but that's pretty much doing no good. It's a mark of self-righteousness, not Christ-righteousness.
I'm sure I'll continue to struggle with this. Yahweh teaches us all lessons by allowing us to struggle, go through trials, and take tests. I'm just glad my conscience was pricked of my own sin last night. I never want to be in a place where I'm not sensitive to my sins and failures to measure up to Yahweh's perfect standard.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.