MY BELOVED BRETHREN. BUT EVERYONE MUST
BE QUICK TO HEAR, SLOW
AND SLOW TO ANGER: Iste (2PRAM) adelphoi mou
agapetoi. esto (2SPAM) de pas anthropos tachus eis to akousai, (AAN)
bradus eis to lalesai, (AAN) bradus eis orgen: (Ne
8:2,3,12, 13, 14,18; 9:3; Pr 8:32-35; Eccl 5:1; Mark 2:2; 12:37; Lk
15:1; 19:48; Acts 2:42; 10:33; 13:42, 43, 44,48; 17:11; 1Th 2:13)
(Slow to speak - Jas 1:26; 3:1,2; Pr 10:19; 13:3; 15:2; 17:27; 18:13,21;
21:23; Eccl 5:2,3) (Slow to anger - Neh 9:17; Pr 14:17,29; 15:18;
16:32; 17:14; 19:11,19; 25:28; Eccl 7:8,9; Mt 5:22; Gal 5:20,21; Ep
4:26,31; Col 3:8,15)
At first glance James 1:19-20 appears
to be a series of isolated exhortations and in Scripture memory
exercises that is how these verse are
often interpreted. However (as I have been guilty of on numerous
occasions), to quote these passages in isolation is to "yank" them
To take passages out of
sets the stage for
misinterpretation, sometimes only slight misinterpretation, but
occasionally resulting in grossly distorted interpretations (the cults
specialize in this latter degree of misinterpretation as they are
experts at taking a text out of
and using the resulting distortion of truth to deceive and dupe their
of James 1:19-20 includes the previous passages...
Do not be deceived, my beloved
brethren. Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from
above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no
variation, or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought
us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were,
the first fruits among His creatures. (James 1:16-18)
From these verses, one observes
that James is
clearly describing persons who have listened to or heard and received
the word of truth and have been born again and become "as it were, the
first fruits among His creatures". Observe also that James 1:21 is
again referring to the Word of God and what must be done in order to receive it.
Finally, in James 1:22, 23, 24, 25 teaches what the hearer of the Word must "do" with the Word
once received in order for it to be an effective agent of
transformation in one's life. Notice then that the
verses preceding and following James 1:18-19 refer to the Word of
God. (the Word of Truth, Jas 1:18-note) Therefore it is only reasonable to interpret James 1:18-19 as
referring to one's reaction/attitude toward the Word of God. Thus in
order to maximize one's reception of the Word of God one needs to
listen ("quick to hear"), restrain speaking (it is very
difficult to hear God speaking if we are speaking) and refrain from
Hiebert explains the
relationship of this verse with the previous writing that...
The reference to the regenerating
word of truth in Jas 1:18-note
appropriately provides the subject for the first test of a living
faith that James develops in this epistle. Having been brought to life
by means of the Word, a genuine faith will rightly relate to that
Word. The "word" in this paragraph seems clearly to have the
same meaning as in Jas 1:18 above—the message of God's truth as
embodied in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. The word of truth
must be dominant in nurturing, guiding, and disciplining the life
that God implanted by means of the Word. In this paragraph, its nature
and function appear under three different figures: as seed (Jas
1:21), as a mirror (Jas 1:23), and as a law that gives
freedom (Jas 1:25). In developing this test of faith, James calls for
the proper reaction to the Word (Jas 1:19, 20), notes the condition
for effective reception of the Word (Jas 1:21), and discusses the
nature and importance of obedience to the Word (Jas 1:22, 23, 24, 25,
26, 27). (Commentary
(present imperative second person plural of oida)- This verb is
most likely a command which could be phrased "Know
(Amplified). Take note of
this (NIV). The idea
would be something like "Come to an understanding of this."
The idea then is that what James is getting ready to say, although
short and pithy is nevertheless important (if you have not memorized
these words, you should consider doing so!)
saying that in view of the fact that they are now new creatures in
Christ ("first fruits, v18), there are some vital/crucial truths that they need to
know to bloom into the creations they were created to be (and have the
potential to be) in Christ.
Notice that the KJV
begins with "Wherefore" which is absent from the NAS (et al)
rendering and most authorities agree that the Textus Receptus
manuscript is less accurate than the modern manuscripts from which
NAS, NIV, ESV, Amplified, etc are translated.
James 1:19, 20, 21 refers primarily to
listening to and receiving the Word, while James 1:22,
23, 24, 25 emphasize primarily the doing and obeying the
Word. This order is quite logical for you cannot obey the Word
of Truth until you hear the Word of Truth!
Beloved, are you quick to hear
the Word of Truth? Or are you quick to hear (read) your devotional
about the Word or the latest NY Times best selling Christian book,
etc? I am not saying you should never read anything but the Word of
Truth, but considering the truth that only the Word of Truth provides
everything necessarily for life and godliness
(2Pe 1:3, 4-
you should make it a priority to allot as much (or more) time to
reading the Word of Truth
(cp Ps 119:89-
see Spurgeon's encouragement;
as you do that Christian novel or other humanly composed literature!
Do you prioritize God's Holy inerrant, all sufficient, eternal Word of
infallible Truth? If not, please consider James' wise exhortation to
be "quick to hear" and then obey what you read and you will be greatly
blessed (cp Rev 1:3-note)
Charles H. Talbert
introduces James 1:19-25 reminding us that in the book of Acts
Christianity was often referred to as The Way (Acts 9:1, 2;
19:9; 19:23; 22:4; 24:14; 24:22) and...
What early Christian teachers like
James aimed to do was to clarify the Way and to encourage a certain
Walk. James 1:19-27 is a Travelers’ Advisory, advice from an
early Christian teacher to travelers on their Christian walk. (Review
and Expositor: James: Teaching Outlines and Selected Sermon Seeds)
Beloved brethren - "My dear
brothers in Christ...my fellow believers" is what he is saying. A
repeated idea in James - Jas. 1:16, 19; 2:5. Hiebert observes that...
With his affectionate "my brothers" James draws them to his heart as
members of the same spiritual family. It softens any suggestion of
harshness in his commands to them and assures them that "he wants them
to feel that he is not a superior, commanding them, but an equal,
exhorting them." They are the objects of his brotherly concern, and
this should strengthen their desire to accept his call unto attainment
of the ideal for the Christian life.
= to love) means beloved,
dear, very much loved. Agapetos is love called out of one’s
heart by preciousness of the object loved. Agapetos is used
only of Christians as united with God or with each other in love. In
Scripture, this term is never applied to non-believers. God the Father
uses this same word describing Jesus declaring that
This is My beloved Son, in
whom I am well-pleased (Mt 3:17)
and in fact the first 9 uses in the
NT are of God the Father speaking of Christ, His beloved Son. This
gives you some idea of the preciousness of the word "beloved"!
This truth makes it even more incredible that Paul described the
saints at Thessalonica (and by application all believers of all ages)
brethren beloved (agapao) by
God, His choice (See note
Beloved is a term of
endearment and is someone that you love, and someone you are deeply
devoted to. Beloved means the other person has struck a "chord"
in your heart. There is a bond of love, a bond of faith that draws
believers together. When you find somebody who loves you that way and
you can love them, the two of you to each other are beloved and
that's the way James felt about his readers.
(adelphos from collative a = denoting unity + delphús
= womb) is literally one born from same womb and so a male having the
same father and mother as reference person. Adelphos here refers to fellow
believers (both brothers and sisters!) in Christ who are united by the
cords of love and bond of affection.
(de) is a word of contrast. In the present context it is used
more in the sense of introducing an explanation, reminding them of what
they should know.
is literally "all men" or "all mankind".
The Nelson Study Bible
has an interesting comment on quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to
anger writing that...
These three exhortations reveal the
outline of this letter (Jas 1:21-2:26 for “swift to hear”; Jas 3:1-18
for “slow to speak”; Jas 4:1-5:18 for “slow to wrath”).
E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. The Nelson Study Bible: NKJV.
Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
The KJV Bible Commentary
has a similar note writing that...
From this point, the practical
Epistle of James follows the three categories listed here: (1) swift
to hear (Jas 1:21-2:26), regarding hearing as doing; (2) slow to speak
(Jas 3:1-18), including the vulnerability of excessive talking and the
comparison of conduct and speech; and (3) slow to wrath (Jas 4:1-17),
identifying the sources of bitterness. The threefold admonition
explains the proper response to the trials of life discussed in
E G, Charles Feinberg, E Hindson, Woodrow Kroll, H L. Wilmington: KJV
Bible Commentary: Nelson)
Must be (2077)
(second person singular
of eimi -
is a command to be and in the
means you must continually be. James is calling for this to be the
habitual practice of everyone (every single believer) who reads the Word of Truth (to be quick
to hear, etc).
Hiebert explains that...
All members of the Christian
community, whatever the extent of their knowledge of the Word or the
degree of their spiritual maturity, need the exhortation. The
imperative, as an appeal to the will, calls for their personal
acceptance of the duty. The effective functioning of the Word in daily
life demands their active cooperation...
"the Christians were dependent upon
the preaching of traveling missionaries ... and of local teachers
(Acts 13:1) for their knowledge of the gospel.'" To listen eagerly to
the message was the first duty of discipleship. (Ibid)
Must be quick to hear -
Hear what? As explained the context indicating that these beloved
brethren are to now be attentive to the same Word that brought about
their new birth.
Lenski - James is clearing up the way for
the proper reception of the saving Word of God. A person who keeps up
his own talking makes a bad hearer.
Spurgeon - Because it is
by the Word that we are begotten: let us be swift to hear it. “Slow to
speak,” because there is so much sin in us that the less we speak the
better. In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin. Great
talkativeness is seldom dissociated from great sinfulness. “Slow to
Alec Motyer explains it
By the experience of conversion we
discovered an important truth about ourselves—that the word of
the gospel matches the new nature which God had secretly created
within us, so that we were able to hear, understand and respond. The
truth triggered the response. Conversion itself needs no
repetition. It is a once-for-all, eternal transaction with God (e.g.
Eph 1:13, 14). But the same pattern remains as the key to an on-going
experience: we must go on hearing that word (the word of truth)
which corresponds to the God-given new nature and in this way
progressively enter into new life. By hearing the life-giving word,
the energies of the new nature are stimulated into action. Therefore,
we must be quick to hear.
We might wonder why the
ever-practical James does not proceed to outline schemes of daily
Bible reading or the like, for surely these are the ways in which we
offer a willing ear to the voice of God. But he does not help us in
this way. Rather, he goes deeper, for there is little point in schemes
and times if we have not got an attentive spirit. It is possible to be
unfailingly regular in Bible reading, but to achieve no more than to
have moved the book-mark forward: this is reading unrelated to an
attentive spirit. The word is read but not heard.
On the other hand, if we can develop an attentive spirit, this will
spur us to create those conditions—a proper method in Bible-reading, a
discipline of time, and so on—by which the spirit will find itself
satisfied in hearing the Word of God. (J. A. Motyer, The Message of
James. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1985) (Bolding added)
William Kelly writes...
The exhortation therefore here is:
"let every man be swift to hear." Christ Himself is the model of this,
as of all else that is good. Though the Holy One of God, never was any
so swift to hear God's word. So the prophet Isaiah distinguished Him,
The Lord GOD has given Me the
tongue of disciples,
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.
The Lord GOD has opened My ear;
And I was not disobedient,
Nor did I turn back. (Isa 50:4, 5)
Nor was it, otherwise with His
bearing in presence of the tempter: the word of God was His constant
resource (Mt 4:3,4), and only the more if Satan perverted it. "It is
written again" (Mt 4:5, 6) was His lowly God-honouring answer (Mt 4:7,
8, 9 10, 11). And so it is, and has ever been, with His sheep. They
hear His voice, and follow Him; they know not the voice of strangers
(Jn 10:4, 5, 7, 8).
The word of truth abides in its value. By it they were begotten
of God (Jas 1:18); by it the new life is fed, formed, directed, and
strengthened. All the written word is prized as well as authoritative;
but for special instructions God has been pleased to furnish those
communications we call the New Testament. If we rightly heed all
scripture, we assuredly shall welcome every word that explains the new
life and its duties, and His glory and grace Who is its spring and
William Barclay observes
There are few wise men who have not
been impressed by the dangers of being too quick to speak and too
unwilling to listen. A most interesting list could be compiled of the
things in which it is well to be quick and the things in which it is
well to be slow. In the Sayings of the Jewish Fathers we read: “There
are four characters in scholars. Quick to hear and quick to forget;
his gain is cancelled by his loss. Slow to hear and slow to forget;
his loss is cancelled by his gain. Quick to hear and slow to forget;
he is wise. Slow to hear and quick to forget; this is an evil lot.”
Ovid bids men to be slow to punish, but swift to reward. Philo bids a
man to be swift to benefit others, and slow to harm them.
In particular the wise men were
impressed by the necessity of being slow to speak. Rabbi Simeon said,
“All my days I have grown up among the wise, and have not found aught
good for a man but silence … Whose multiplies words occasions sin.”
Jesus, the son of Sirach, writes, “Be swift to hear the word that
thou mayest understand … If thou hast understanding, answer thy
neighbour; if not, lay thy hand upon thy mouth, lest thou be surprised
in an unskillful word, and be confounded” (Ecclesiasticus 5:11,
12). Proverbs is full of the perils of too hasty speech. “When
words are many, transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his
lips is prudent” (Proverbs 10:19). “He who guards his mouth
preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin”
(Proverbs 13:3). “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise”
(Proverbs 17:28). “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?
There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20).
Hort says that the really good man
will be much more anxious to listen to God than arrogantly,
garrulously and stridently to shout his own opinions. The classical
writers had the same idea. Zeno said, “We have two ears but only one
mouth, that we may hear more and speak less.” When Demonax was asked
how a man might rule best, he answered, “Without anger, speaking
little, and listening much.” Bias said, “If you hate quick speaking,
you will not fall into error.” The tribute was once paid to a great
linguist that he could be silent in seven different languages. Many of
us would do well to listen more and to speak less.
W: The Daily Study Bible Series.)
(tachus) is an adverb which literally means quick, swift,
speedy as opposed to slow. The emphasis is on a very brief period of
time so that an activity or event occurs with speed or swiftness.
There are times when we need to do something quickly, urgently or
promptly and James like a flash gives two pithy, but powerful
charges—we should be quick to listen, quick to hear.
So first James says let everyone
of us be quick to listen to the Word of God itself, quick to listen to
what God is saying directly to you in the Bible. Are you doing a
through the Bible reading program this year? If you are, the question
is "Are you quick to hear" or just quick to get through your required
texts for that day? There is a huge difference in those two goals.
Robert Morgan tells this story to illustrate the difference...
When I was in college, I had a
buddy named Joe who was a close friend to Billy and Ruth Graham. We
sat together in chapel and we went to church together in Columbia, and
I noticed that Joe carried around a little notebook and took copious
notes of all the sermons he heard in church or school. One day I asked
him about it. He said that on those weekends when he drove up to
Montreat to spend time with the Grahams, he would go to church with
them at the little Presbyterian church they attended. The pastor was
Calvin Thielman, who is now in heaven. One day after church as he
drove home with Billy and Ruth, Joe said, “Man, I almost went to sleep
in church today. That was a boring sermon.” To which Billy replied,
“Why, Joe, I thought it was a wonderful sermon. I got a lot out of
it.” That was a rebuke to Joe, and later he asked Ruth about it. She
told him to listen more carefully and to take notes. And I remember
seeing Joe in chapel and in church with his little notebook,
meticulously taking notes during the sermon, jotting down the outline,
the cross-references, and even the stories and illustrations. And it
made a huge difference every week.
Our standing attitude is to be
quick to listen, which demands an eager, attentive ear, ready to
receive and process the word heard. As Kistemaker puts it
Listening is the art of closing
one's mouth and opening one's ears and heart.
Tachus is used 18 times
in the NT - Matt. 5:25; 28:7, 8; Mk. 9:39; Lk. 15:22; Jn. 11:29;
13:27; 20:4; Acts 17:15; Heb. 13:19, 23; Jas. 1:19; Rev. 2:16; 3:11;
11:14; 22:7, 12, 20
To hear (191)
(akouo) means to exercise ones faculty of hearing and can
convey the sense of not just listening/hearing but of understanding
that which has been heard (eg, 1Co 14:2, Ga 4:21). In some contexts,
akouo conveys the sense of to pay careful attention to or to heed (Mt
17:5, Lk 9:35, Acts 3:22).
To hear suggests that
there was public reading of the Word as well as oral instruction
regarding the Christian faith. We need to listen carefully to make
sure we get the message correct.
Warren Wiersbe explains
quick to hear by first noting that...
the Word of God cannot work
in our lives unless we receive it in the right way. Jesus not only
said, “Take heed what ye hear” (Mark 4:24), but He also said, “Take
heed how ye hear” (Luke 8:18). Too many people are in that tragic
condition in which “hearing they hear not, neither do they understand”
(Matt. 13:13). They attend Bible classes and church services but never
seem to grow. Is it the fault of the teacher or the preacher? Perhaps,
but it may also be the fault of the hearer. It is possible to be “dull
of hearing” (Heb. 5:11) because of decay of the spiritual life.
If the seed of the Word is to be planted in our hearts, then we must
obey the instructions James gives us... “Who hath ears to hear, let
him hear!” (Mt 13:9) “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by
the Word of God” (Ro 10:17). Just as the servant is quick to hear his
master’s voice, and the mother to hear her baby’s smallest cry, so the
believer should be quick to hear what God has to say.
Steven Cole sees several
"marks" of the heart which is receptive to the Word of truth observing
first mark of a heart that is
receptive to God’s word is that it is quick to hear the word.
Jesus told the Jews who disputed with Him (John 8:47),
“He who is of God hears the words
of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are
not of God.”
Obviously, these Jews heard the
sound of the words that Jesus spoke. They were not deaf. But they did
not (and could not, according to Jesus) understand them (John 8:43 "Why
do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear
My word."), because they were not born of God. They lacked the
ability to hear and understand spiritual truth. As Paul said (1Cor
But a natural man does not accept (
= same verb used in ) the things of the Spirit of God, for they are
foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are
To be quick to hear God’s word
implies an attitude of eagerness to take in the word from every angle.
As a believer, you should desire to read the word, to listen to
biblical preaching of the word, to memorize the word, and to
understand all of its teaching with a view to obedience. The
centerpiece of the Bible is Psalm 119, which goes on for 176 verses
extolling God’s word and expressing the psalmist’s delight in it. We
see his eagerness when he says (Ps 119:131), “I opened my mouth wide
and panted, for I longed for Your commandments.” In Psalm 19:10, David
said regarding God’s commandments, “They are more desirable than gold,
yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of
The apostle Peter says (1Pe 2:2-note),
“Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by
it you may grow in respect to salvation, ….” That verse became very
vivid to me when as a new father, I made the mistake of holding my
newborn daughter with my shirt off. To her, any nipple looked like the
source of milk, so she latched onto me with a vengeance! I never made
that mistake again!
Evaluate your heart for God’s word.
Do you delight in it? Do you long for it and pour over it as a young
woman longs for and pours over a love letter from her fiancé who is in
another country? What is your attitude when you go to hear the word
preached? The Welsh preacher Rowland Hill (1744-1833), as an old man,
was visiting with a longtime friend who said, “It is now 65 years
since I first heard you preach. I still remember your text and a part
of your sermon.” Hill asked, “What part of the sermon do you
The friend answered, “You said that
some people, when they went to hear a sermon, were very squeamish
about the delivery of the preacher. Then you said, ‘Supposing you went
to hear the will of one of your relatives read, and you were expecting
a legacy from him. You would hardly think of criticizing the manner in
which the lawyer read the will, but you would be all attention to hear
whether anything was left to you, and if so, how much. And that is the
way to hear the gospel.’” (Adapted from Spurgeon's Lectures to his
Students, condensed and edited by David Otis Fuller [Zondervan], p.
374.) A receptive heart opens the ears to God’s word of truth. (Steven
Cole - excellent sermons that read much like commentaries - see
James 1:19-21 A Receptive Heart)
In Jeremiah, the LORD
derides the faithless house of Jacob for failure to even hear much
less heed declaring...
Hear this, O foolish and senseless
people, who have eyes, but see not; who have ears, but hear
not. (Jeremiah 5:21)
(bradus) means literally to take a relatively long time or not
happening in a short time. By implication it means not hasty, not
precipitate and so acting (in this case speaking) with deliberation.
Bradus is used only 3 times in the NT - Lk. 24:25; Jas. 1:19
Quick to Judge -
“The people upstairs are very
annoying,” complained the tenant. “Last night they stomped and banged
on the floor until midnight.”
“Did they wake you?” asked the landlord.
“No,” explained the tenant. “Luckily, I was up playing my tuba.” -
Barclay - Proverbs is
full of the perils of too hasty speech. "When words are many,
transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is
prudent" (Proverbs 10:19). "He who guards his mouth preserves his
life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin" (Proverbs 13:3). "Even
a fool who keeps silent is considered wise" (Proverbs 17:28). "Do you
see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool
than for him" (Proverbs 29:20).Hort says that the really good man will
be much more anxious to listen to God than arrogantly, garrulously and
stridently to shout his own opinions. The classical writers had the
same idea. Zeno said, "We have two ears but only one mouth, that we
may hear more and speak less." When Demonax was asked how a man might
rule best, he answered, "Without anger, speaking little, and listening
much." Bias said, "If you hate quick speaking, you will not fall into
error." The tribute was once paid to a great linguist that he could be
silent in seven different languages. Many of us would do well to
listen more and to speak less...To be slow to speak, slow to anger,
quick to listen is always good policy for life. (James
1 - William Barclay's Daily Study Bible)
To speak (2980)
means to make a sound and then to utter words. You have probably heard
the saying that God created us with two ears and one mouth, which
ought to remind us to listen twice as much as we speak (cf. Pr 10:19;
17:27). In the context of the Word of Truth, James is alluding to
those times when we argue with the Word if not audibly, at least in
our hearts, rather than receiving the Word in humility.
William Kelly writes...
we are told also to be "slow to
speak." For we have another nature which is self-confident and
impulsive; and there do we need to be on our guard, that, knowing
ourselves weak, ignorant, and naturally prone to evil, we may look up
to God and wait dependently on Him. As born of Him, it is ours to be
jealous that we may neither misrepresent nor grieve Him. And therefore
are we warned of another danger, when it is added "slow to wrath."
How often it is impotent and hasty self-will! We are now sanctified to
do His will, to obey as Christ obeyed. There is of course a right
occasion for wrath. So the Lord looked round about on those that
misused the sabbath to oppose God's grace in an evil world. But we are
exhorted to be slow to wrath, and to let it soon be over. "Be ye angry
and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath; neither give
place to the devil" (Ep 4: 26, 27). (Commentary)
Spurgeon - Therefore, when
we are tempted, let us not be in a hurry to pronounce a verdict on the
temptation. If we are slandered and evil spoken of, let us not be
quick to reply, or to grow angry. Let us be slow — very slow — to
wrath; it will be our wisdom, for no good comes of human wrath: “The
wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
Alec Motyer - The great talker is rarely a great
listener, and never is the ear more firmly closed than when anger
takes over...slow to speak does not mean ‘never speak’, but ‘speak
with due thought and care’. (Ibid)
John MacArthur explains
slow to speak this way...
You cannot listen carefully while
you are talking, or even while you are thinking about what to say.
Many discussions are fruitless for the simple reason that all parties
are paying more attention to what they want to say than to what others
are saying. In this context, therefore, it seems that slow to speak
includes the idea of being careful not to be thinking about one’s own
thoughts and ideas while someone else is trying to express God’s. We
cannot really hear God’s Word when our minds are on our own thoughts.
We need to keep silent inside as well as outside. The primary idea
here, however, is that, when the appropriate time to speak does come,
what is said should be carefully thought out. When we speak for the
Lord, we should have the gravest concern that what we say not only is
true but is spoken in a way that both edifies those who hear and
honors the Lord in whose behalf we speak. We should pursue every
opportunity to read the Word ourselves, to hear it preached and
taught, and to discuss it with other believers who love, honor, and
seek to obey it. At the same time, we should be cautious, patient, and
careful when we have opportunity to preach, teach, or explain it to
others. It is doubtless for that reason that James later warns, “Let
not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we
will incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).
J. James. Moody)
Hiebert - "Slow to speak" does not mean
slowness in speaking but is a call for restraint upon hasty and
ill-considered reactions to what is heard. It would allow time for a
fuller apprehension and thoughtful evaluation of what had been heard.
It offered a valuable safeguard against shallow, immature, and
immoderate reactions. "A continual talker cannot hear what anyone else
says and by the same token will not hear when God speaks to him." The
need for this exhortation apparently arose out of the free and largely
unstructured nature of the early Christian assemblies, permitting
personal participation in, and ready interaction with, others sharing
in the service (1Co 14:26 33).
Hasty reaction to what was felt to be objectionable, or individual
zeal for what was held to be the truth, might lead to rash assertion
and overstatement, which often tended to obscure the truth. Let them
remember that freedom of expression involves grave responsibility
Vincent says that
laleo is "used of speaking, in contrast with
or as a breaking of silence, voluntary or imposed. Thus the dumb man,
after he was healed, spake (Mt 9:33- "And after the demon was
cast out, the dumb man spoke; and the multitudes marveled,
saying (lego), "Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel.") and
Zacharias, when his tongue was loosed, began to speak (Lk 1:64 - "And
at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to
speak in praise of God") The use of the word laleo
...contemplates the fact rather than the substance of speech. Hence it
is used of God (Heb 1:1), the point being, not what God said, but the
fact that he spake to men. On the contrary, lego refers to the
matter of speech. The verb originally means to pick out, and hence to
use words selected as appropriate expressions of thought, and to put
such words together in orderly discourse." (Vincent, M. R. Word
studies in the New Testament).
Kenneth Wuest - Laleo (was) used originally
just of sounds like the chatter of birds, the prattling of children,
(but was also used) of the most serious kind of speech. It takes note
of the sound and the manner of speaking. One thinks of the words in
the song In the Garden; “He speaks, and the sound of His voice is so
sweet, the birds hush their singing
Instead of opening your mouth
to speak when you hear the Word of truth, just open your mouth
and pant and long for the Word like the psalmist...
Psalm 119:131 I opened (Lxx
= anoigo - see notes on use in
Rev 3:20) my mouth wide and
panted, (Why did he "pant"?) for I longed for Thy commandments.
The English rendering of the Greek
Septuagint translation is...
Psalm 119:131 I opened my
mouth, and drew breath: for I earnestly longed (see study of
epipotheo; the verb tense is
= pictures the
psalmist over and over longing) after Thy commandments. (Beloved,
does this describe your Christian walk? If not perhaps you might dare
to pray this prayer to God, asking Him to give you a desire that pants
for and cannot live without His Word of truth and life. When we pray
boldly in God's will, we can be assured that He hears us and that He
will give us the requests that are in accord with His good and
acceptable and perfect will - see
1 John 5:14-15).
Matthew Henry comments on Ps
When he was under a forced absence
from God's ordinances he longed to be restored to them again; when he
enjoyed ordinances he greedily sucked in the word of God, as new-born
babes desire the milk. When Christ is formed in the soul there are
gracious longings, unaccountable to one that is a stranger to the
The degree of that desire appearing
in the expressions of it: I opened my mouth and panted, as one
overcome with hear, or almost stifled, pants for a mouthful of fresh
air. Thus strong, thus earnest, should our desires be towards God and
the remembrance of his name, Ps. 42:1, 2. Lk. 12:50.
C H Spurgeon comments on Ps
So animated was his desire that he
looked into the animal world to find a picture of it. He was filled
with an intense longing, and was not ashamed to describe it by a most
expressive, natural, and yet singular symbol. Like a stag that has
been hunted in the chase, and is hard pressed, and therefore pants for
breath, so did the Psalmist pant for the entrance of God's word into
his soul. Nothing else could content him. All that the world could
yield him left him still panting with open mouth.
For I longed for thy commandments. Longed to know them, longed
to obey them, longed to be conformed to their spirit, longed to teach
them to others (cp notes on
He was a servant of God, and his industrious mind longed to receive
orders; he was a learner in the school of grace, and his eager spirit
longed to be taught of the Lord.
Panting for holiness. A rare
hunger; the evidence of much grace, and the pledge of glory.
writes on Ps 119:131...
I opened my mouth, and panted.
A metaphor taken from men scorched and sweltered with heat, or from
those that have run themselves out of breath in following the thing
which they would overtake. The former metaphor expressed the vehemency
of his love; the other the earnestness of his pursuit: he was like a
man gasping for breath, and sucking in the cool air.
I longed for thy commandments.
This is a desire which God will satisfy. "Open thy mouth wide, and I
will fill it":
comments on Psalm 119:131...
I opened my mouth, and panted. By
this manner of speech, David expresses, as Basil thinks, animi
propensionem, that the inclination of his soul was after God's word.
For, this opened mouth, Ambrose thinks, is os interioris hominis, the
mouth of the inward man, which in effect is his heart; and the, speech
notes vehementem animi intensionem, a vehement intension of his
spirit, saith Euthymius. Yet shall it not be amiss to consider here
how the mind of the godly earnestly affected moves the body also. The
speech may be drawn from travellers, who being very desirous to attain
to their proposed ends, enforce their strength thereunto; and finding
a weakness in their body to answer their will, they pant and open
their mouth, seeking refreshment from the air to renew their strength:
or as Vatablus thinks, from men exceeding hungry and thirsty, who open
their mouth as if they would draw in the whole air, and then pant and
sigh within themselves when they find no full refreshment by it. So he
expresses it: "My heart burns with so ardent a longing for thy
commandments, that I am forced ever and anon to gasp by reason of my
However it be, it lets us see how the hearing, reading, or meditating
of God's word wakened in David (Ed note: Some think Psalm 119
was written by the scribe Ezra) a most earnest affection to have the
light, joy, grace, and comfort thereof communicated to his own heart.
For in the godly, knowledge of good increases desires; and it cannot
be expressed how vehemently their souls long to feel that power and
comfort which they know is in the word; and how sore they are grieved
and troubled when they find it not.
And happy were we, if we could meet the Lord with this like affection;
that when he opens his mouth, we could also open our heart to hear, as
David here doth... For it is His promise to us all -- "Open thy
mouth wide, and I will fill it." (see Ps 81:10 -
Let us turn it into a prayer, that the Lord, who opened the heart of
Lydia (Acts 16:14), would open our heart to receive grace when He
offers by His word to give it.
writes on Ps 119:131...
There are two ways in which these
words may be understood. They may be considered as expressing the very
earnest longing of the Psalmist for greater acquaintance with God in
spiritual things; and then in saying, "I opened my mouth, and panted,"
he merely asserts the vehemence of his desire. Or you may separate the
clauses: you may regard the first as the utterance of a man utterly
dissatisfied with the earth and earthly things, and the second as the
expression of a consciousness that God, and God only, could meet the
longings of his soul. "I opened my mouth, and panted. "Out of breath,
with chasing shadows, and hunting after baubles, I sit down exhausted,
as far off as ever from the happiness which has been earnestly but
fruitlessly sought. Whither, then, shall I turn? Thy commandments, O
Lord, and these alone, can satisfy the desires of an immortal being
like myself; and on these, therefore, henceforward shall my longings
Ross - Ceaseless talkers may easily
degenerate into fierce controversialists
People who fly into a rage
Always make a bad landing.
Slow to anger - In
context we are to be slow to become angry at God or His Word, for as
Solomon wisely stated...
He who is slow to anger
has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.
(Pr 14:29, cp Pr 14:17, 15:18, 16:32)
Warren Wiersbe - I once saw a poster that
read, “Temper is such a valuable thing, it is a shame to lose it!” It
is temper that helps to give steel its strength. The person who cannot
get angry at sin does not have much strength to fight it. James warns
us against getting angry at God’s Word because it reveals our sins to
us. Like the man who broke the mirror because he disliked the image in
it, people rebel against God’s Word because it tells the truth about
them and their sinfulness.
W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)
that slow to anger...
rebukes the danger
involved in a flash reaction. Rash and reckless speech is prone to
wound; it is likely to provoke animosity. "Intemperate religious zeal
is often accompanied with a train of bad passions, and particularly
with great wrath against those who differ from us in opinion." James's
warning suggests "scenes of wrangling, of attempts at self-display, of
the manifestation of unchristian tempers in the midst of debates on
Christian truth." Mitchell calls it "the wrath of argumentation." Such
wrathful reactions are manifestations of carnal zeal under a religious
guise. Such furious reactions to the views of others have always been
a discredit to the cause of Christ.
The Greek noun (orge),
here rendered "become angry" implies more than a passing surge of
irritation or displeasure. It denotes a strong and persistent feeling
of indignation and active anger. Another Greek word, thumos, also
means anger. It denotes the turbulent, passionate outburst of anger,
whereas the term used here points more to the deliberate, persistent
attitude of hostility." In Mt 5:22 the verbal form suggests the
persistent harboring of the feeling of resentment.
Human anger is an instinctive reaction against that which is evil and
injurious. The feeling of anger is not always wrong (cf. Mk 3:5). The
individual who is never aroused and deeply stirred at evil is gravely
deficient in moral character. James's words do not forbid all anger,
but this instinctive feeling needs careful control lest it blaze forth
in unjustified and injurious reactions. The attitude of Scripture is
consistently negative toward the indulgence in human wrath."
from orgaô = to
teem, to swell) conveys the picture of a swelling which eventually
bursts, and thus describes an anger that proceeds from one’s settled
nature. Orge refers to to an inner, deep resentment that
seethes and smolders. What a contrast in heart attitudes between a
seething, teeming anger and a heart that pants for the water brooks,
desiring to meditate on the Word night and day, taking in the pure
milk of the Word like a new born babe does its mother's milk.
MacArthur makes a good
point about the danger of the orge type of anger noting that...
It is therefore an anger that only
the Lord and the believer know about. Therefore, it is a special
danger, in that it can be privately harbored...James’ emphasis here
seems to be on those who hear the truth and resent its exposing their
personal false ideas or ungodly lifestyles...throughout the history of
the church—in fact, throughout the history of fallen mankind—even
believers have resented God’s truth and the messenger who brought
it...There is, of course, a just anger, a holy indignation against
sin, Satan, and anything that dishonors the Lord or assaults His
J. James. Moody)
If we have an angry or argumentative
attitude when we hear God's Word of truth that displeases or rebukes
or confronts us (cp "all Scripture...is profitable for...for reproof"
2Ti 3:16-note), we are not likely to retain what
truth we do hear and then even less likely to be effected by it "for
the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God."
Orge is used 36 times in
the NT - Mt 3:7; Mk. 3:5; Lk. 3:7; 21:23; Jn 3:36; Ro 1:18; 2:5, 8;
3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19; 13:4, 5; Ep 2:3; 4:31; 5:6; Col. 3:6, 8;
1Th 1:10; 2:16; 5:9; 1Ti 2:8; He 3:11; 4:3; Jas 1:19, 20; Re 6:16, 17;
11:18; 14:10; 16:19; 19:15
Moyer has an excellent,
eminently pragmatic comment noting that...
slow to anger is not the
same as ‘never be angry’. On the other hand, to say that human anger
does not forward God’s righteous purposes is pretty unequivocal. Paul
evidences the same duality when he says, ‘Be angry but do not sin; do
not let the sun go down on your anger’ (Ep 4:26-note).
Both writers imply the possibility of a righteous anger; both give a
straight warning that anger and sin are never far apart; both counsel
great watchfulness. It is an aspect of James’ style to say things
bluntly and not to pause to spell out details or make refinements. He
contents himself, therefore, with the general truth about human anger.
It is not a pure emotion; it is usually heavily impregnated with
sin—self-importance, self-assertion, intolerance, stubbornness. Most
of us would have to confess that holy anger belongs in a state of
sanctification to which we have not attained. James is writing of us
and to us: your anger does not bring about the righteous plans of God.
It is a salutary reminder and a merited rebuke. At any rate, an
angry spirit is never an attentive one. When anger comes in, listening
flies out. The courts of men are our drill-ground for the courts of
the Lord. Those who would listen to Him must train themselves to be
listeners and, to that end, they must covet and cultivate a reticent
tongue and a calm temper. For nothing must militate against—rather,
everything must be made an adjunct to—that great, fundamental
practice, hearing God’s Word. (Ibid) (Bolding added for emphasis)
Guzik adds an interesting
We can learn to be slow to wrath by
first learning to be swift to hear and slow to speak. So much of our
anger and wrath comes from being self-centered not others-centered.
Swift to hear is a way to be others-centered. Slow to speak is a way
to be others-centered.
NOTE: The following
devotionals do not speak to the primary interpretation of James
1:19-20 as related to listening to the Word of Truth but nevertheless
still have some good
applications regarding listening...
Epp has the following
devotional on James 1:19-21...
James wanted all believers to be
alert to comprehend the Word of God. This is very important since
"faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Ro
The Word of God gives us faith to believe, and when we believe, God
creates new life within us.
Many people hear the Word of God, but to some of them it is only
words; they do not accept it as the Word of God. What a paradox it is
that all creation obeys His Word except we who are made in the image
of God and have the ability to choose.
Many people have an extensive knowledge of the Word of God, but they
do not really believe what it says, so they do not respond to it as
We should not be quick to retort when someone has spoken against us.
To be quick with an answer can sometimes get us into much trouble.
Consider what the Word of God has to say about these matters.
Proverbs 29:20 says, "Seest thou a
man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of
Proverbs 10:19 says, "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin:
but he that refraineth his lips is wise."
A rule that should govern our lives is stated in Proverbs 15:1: "A
soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger."
"The soul of the transgressors shall eat violence. He that keepth his
mouth keepeth his life" (Pr 13:2,3).
JUMPING TO ILLUSIONS -
How frustrating to have someone interrupt you, thinking he knows what
you're about to say and then jumping to a conclusion! We've all done
that. We've jumped to "illusions" about what the person was actually
saying. We've heard the words that were spoken, but we didn't really
listen to what was being said. And what misunderstanding has resulted!
Recently I "sat on the sidelines" as a husband and wife argued, firing
volley after volley of accusations at each other, both talking at the
same time, and constantly interrupting each other. Each word drove the
wedge of misunderstanding deeper and deeper into their relationship. I
could hardly call for a ceasefire above the din of their verbal
I can't imagine that Jesus ever engaged in discourteous conversation.
People listened to Him, and He listened to them. James, in his letter
to the early church, wrote, "Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to
wrath" (James 1:19). I'm sure he saw this modeled in Jesus many times over.
Respectful listening keeps anger under control and promotes
righteousness. Let's listen carefully and avoid jumping to illusions.
Dennis De Haan (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
It's easy to
listen to words that are said
And not hear the facts at all;
But listening for truth, and not just to words,
Will save you from many a fall.-- Hess
You can win more
friends with your ears than with your mouth.
GOOD LISTENERS - In his
book "Life Together", Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "The first service
that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to
them. Just as love for God begins with listening to His Word, so the
beginning of love for the brothers is learning to listen to them. It
is [because of] God's love for us that He not only gives us His Word
but also lends us His ear."
Listening was a key element in
solving a problem between two ethnic groups in the infant church in
Jerusalem (Acts 6:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). One group felt that their widows were being
discriminated against in the distribution of food. So the apostles
wisely listened to their complaint, worked out an acceptable solution,
and settled the dispute.
Listening to others is also important today because our churches are
becoming increasingly diverse. We come from broad ethnic and racial
backgrounds and are at different levels of maturity. But if we show
our love by listening, our common faith in Christ can bind us
Are we so driven to express our views or vent our feelings that we
don't really hear what others have to say?
Lord, teach us how to love. Make us good listeners to others, as You
are to us. -Dennis Egner
Be this our
That truth be preached and prayer arise,
That each may seek the other's good,
And live and love as Jesus would. - Brewster
Listening may be
the most important thing you do today.