“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
James comes right out of his discussion on dealing with temptation to address how we need to live out our faith. He starts to drive his point home: BEHAVE LIKE YOU BELIEVE. Don’t just mark your Bible, let the Bible mark you.
James warns believers not to be deceived into compartmentalizing their faith by hearing the Word but going on with “life as usual.” We find the phrase “do not be deceived” four times in the New Testament.
· 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.”
· 1 Corinthians 15:33-34 – “Do not be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals. Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning;”
· Galatians 6:7 – “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”
· James 1:15-16 – “When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
In that context, let’s examine why compartmentalized Christianity is deception. First, there is an imperative truth. James begins verse 19 with “This you know.” The truth is imperative—we should know this—and it implies an imperative command regarding our actions. Next, there is a family truth as James addresses the “beloved brethren,” referencing the church as a whole. Finally, there is a personal truth. James reminds us that this truth applies to everyone—there are no loopholes or exceptions.
Now that James has established the truths behind his admonishment, he gives his readers four specific instructions:
1) Be quick to hear (v. 19). By nature, we’d rather talk than listen. Think about Jesus in his temptation: He listened and was quick to pick up on Satan’s motives. We need to be quick to listen—especially to godly people. Jesus often rebuked the Pharisees because they were “hard of listening.” God has given us two ears and one tongue to listen twice as much as we speak.
“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”
“Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There’s more hope for a fool than for him.”
“First you must know how to hold your tongue and then how to use it.”
“Don’t shoot off your mouth, or speak before you think. Don’t be too quick to tell God what you think he wants to hear. God’s in charge, not you — the less you speak, the better.”
–Ecclesiastes 5:2 (The Message)
2) Be slow to speak (v. 19). Don’t blurt out the first thing that comes to your mind. Engage your brain before your tongue. We are quick to complain, gossip and accuse. We are quick to make promises we have no intention of keeping.
3) Be slow to anger (v. 19). Do the first two, and this action will follow. We are easily frustrated and tempted to take matters into our own hands. Alec Moyter says, “When anger rushes in, listening flies out.” God wants hot hearts, not hot heads. The Greek word for anger in verse 19 indicates “a state of mind into which a person has settled with thoughts of revenge.”
Your temper is the only thing you can lose and still keep. Bible is full of accounts of individuals who let anger get the best of them and sidetrack them in their walk with God: Cain, Moses, Naaman, Jonah, Peter and others. The truth is: anger never brings the results you desire. Angry people can’t contemplate what God is saying because they are too busy fuming about what God has said!
4) Be specific in your faith (v. 21). In this verse, James tells us to put aside “all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness.” Putting aside means to do it yourself once and for all, as if taking off a garment and laying it aside. The filthiness is like ear wax which plugs our ears and keeps us from hearing God, and the wickedness is an unnatural growth, like a wart, on your character. This is the only time this word picture appears in the New Testment
Deal w/ the root of your disobedience. Once you’ve dealt with it properly, you are fit to “receive the word implanted which is able to save your souls.” Notice that this word is not acquired by study but by obedience. Receive it with a teachable spirit. Don’t bow up and get defensive.
(Copyright 2008, Michael Catt)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.