Swift to Hear and Slow to Speak – About What?

James 1:19-21 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

I’ve often heard people make reference to the first part of the Scripture above by applying it to the conversations we have with others. We are told that we are to be “swift to hear but slow to speak.” And that is probably very good advice.  Often that approach would keep us from the danger of “opening mouth and inserting foot.”  However, in context, the verses above aren’t talking about this sort of thing. The verses above are referring to a person’s reaction to the Word of God, the Bible. 

A common reaction to the words of Scripture, and in particular to the words of Scripture that talk about our sin, is to react hastily.  When the Bible tells us our actions are “filthy” and “wicked,” whether we hear it from our own reading, or relayed from a preacher or a friend, our reaction is typically not very good.  Often our response will be to either not listen at all, i.e., let it roll off like water off a duck’s back, or if we do listen, to then defend ourselves, or even to become angry.  As I’ve heard more than one person say when confronted in some way about their sin “But I’m a good person!”  We are told in the Scripture above that an angry reaction to the Word of God is not a good thing and if that is our reaction we can be sure that we are not as good or “righteous” as we think we are. 

We are commanded by God to be swift to listen to His Word, to listen intently, i.e., to “have ears to hear” (Mark 4:9).  His Word is a cleanser of our souls. It exposes the dirt and provides the remedy for forgiveness of sin, i.e., the death of Christ, Who paid the penalty for us.  It is this Word that is able to save our souls.  How foolish to reject it.  How foolish to get angry and try to justify ourselves against its claims.  How much wiser to be “slow to speak” to ourselves or others about what we think, and “swift to hear” what God thinks.  For indeed “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

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