James 1:19-27

Late blog again today but if you know me, you're probably not surprised. At least I'm getting the day right! My wife, Chrissi's been in hospital today having an operation and although it's gone very well, it's been a nerve-racking day and we've been tested with uncertainty at times.

Remembering the amazing realities God brings us that we looked at yesterday is all too easy on paper. Living them out in real life is often much harder. This next chunk of James is about living out what we claim to believe.

Have you ever reacted instantly in anger, only to be embarrassed when you find out you've misunderstood a situation? I have! Once I yelled at one of the lads in my youth group for lobbing a brick that narrowly missed one of our leaders only to discover afterwards that it had been a loaf of bread! Somebody once told me that the reason we have two ears and only one mouth is that we're supposed to use them in that same proportion. This sounds like good wisdom to me (although the main reason is probably because we'd look stupid if it was the other way round)!

James knows that we find it very easy to shoot our mouths off, especially when we feel frustrated or angry. Our instinct should be first to listen and then to react. In fact, when we act on this instinct, we're showing that we're made in the likeness of the God who is 'slow to anger and abounding in love' (Exodus 34:6).

James is talking about words and particularly 'the word' a lot in this section. He's talking about God's word. This can mean the written word of God: the Bible, but also the living word of God: Jesus! James tells us that if God's word is living and active in our lives, people should be noticing the following things about us...
  • We listen carefully before speaking into a situation (v19)
  • We react patiently when we're angry inside (v19-20)
  • We take the Bible seriously and try to live it out (v21-25)
  • We take Jesus seriously and try to become like him (v21-25)
  • We use our words wisely and deliberately (v26)
  • We care about those in real need and act to help them (v27)
Reading the things listed above and understanding them is the easy part. The hard part comes when we have to react wisely and compassionately to someone spreading lies about us behind our back, or to being let down by people who have broken their promises to us, or to having to see someone you love go into hospital when they're really scared! That's when it's easy to forget what we've read in the Bible, just like the guy who forgets what he looks like after checking his reflection. The good news is that it's not so much about our effort as it is about our trusting in and depending on what God says to us in the Bible and through the life of his Son, Jesus. James tells us it all starts with humbly accepting the word that God has planted and wants to plant in us (v21).
If you're a Christian, remember that God has planted his Son, Jesus in you by his Spirit. Have another glance at the list above. How much are people noticing these characteristics in you? Are they increasing? Ask God to help you. If you're not, consider the wisdom James has for us about the way we use our words. What is the source of your wisdom? What impact does this have on the way you live your life and is it enough?