Remember James is teaching us how to live as followers of Christ. Wouldn’t the world look totally different if everyone put his wisdom into play? Let’s unpack these great reminders.
Listen before speaking. How many times have you rushed to respond to someone without letting them finish or even paying attention to what they said? I know I’m guilty of that and feel horrible when I catch myself. James is simply telling us to “be present” in all situations. We can avoid a lot of heartache when we pay attention and communicate effectively. This may be the gentle prompt you need right now to “slow down!”
Control your anger. Nobody wins when anger is present. Being around an angry person is not pleasant. If you are the target of someone’s anger, you know that can lead to fear, lack of self-worth, and possibly even cause you to stumble and respond in anger. God wants so much better for us than to be chained to our anger. “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”
Do what God’s word says. Practice what you hear and read. God’s word is the wisdom we need for life. Tricky situations have solutions if only we pay attention to what the Bible says. Beyond that, we need to put our knowledge into action. James tells us what benefit we can expect for honoring God’s word like this. “But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”
Control your tongue. This is a biggie when it comes to relationships. People are drawn to positive people. I don’t know why others think that talking trash is attractive. It’s not. We can often say things that hurt someone without intending to offend. If we’re Christ followers, don’t we want to represent him well and be good communicators, bringing positive messages? James will talk more about taming our tongue in a future passage.
Care for orphans and widows. This common theme is our clue that God has a soft spot for orphans and widows. In ancient times, those would be the weakest and most vulnerable of all society. There were no social programs for them to turn to for assistance. Have you ever felt desperate, wondering where your next meal was coming from? God knew orphans and widows would need extra love and protection from his followers. We, as the church, can really put God’s word into practice when we give to the needy with no expectation of receiving anything in return.
Don’t let the world corrupt you. Unless we wrap ourselves in bubble wrap and lock ourselves away, lies of the world are going to attack and try to manipulate our thinking. We see evil schemes happening in the news media, in television and cinema, in literature, and in conversations around the dinner table. The evil one is constantly seeking to corrupt us, and many of us don’t even realize it.
How did James’ wisdom speak to you? Do you feel convicted to do a better job of listening, controlling your anger, or representing Jesus in this world? What action steps do you plan to take? Think about that and jot down three things you will implement in the next week to be better at “listening” or “doing.”
Let’s pray. Father, thank you for your word and for the faithfulness of the early church leaders who shared such wisdom. There are some good reminders in this reading that really struck a chord with me. Help me to slow down and be present in all situations. When I feel weak, help me to find my way and represent you well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.