Life Lessons from Hard Times – Studies in James
To date, we have drawn out six lessons from James 1. This is strategic and important because it both defines how to live successfully and how to navigate through the crucible of hard times which populate all of our lives.
These six lessons to date can be summarized as follows: For God’s people, He tailor makes tests in life designed to grow us up. These trials are to be received with joy and with perseverance, without challenging God’s plan for our lives and recognizing that the wrong decisions we make, even in this crucible of fire, are not the fault of God but lay at our feet, as we grow from our new spiritual birth to finished citizens in the Kingdom (James 1:2-18).
If our goal is to live skillfully and with wisdom, ultimately the life discipline of careful listening is irreplaceable. In my rapid pace through life, I have too often detached from a conversation with family or friends before they have finished their conversation with me. That is corrosive in communication, and if it is coupled with impatience or anger, life connections are damaged or lost.
James 1:19-21 19My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
There are three keys to cultivating the skills of careful listening:
1. Listening, the First Response. Too often one or both conversants will refuse to listen and treat the dialog as a competition they need to win, in order to validate their preconceptions. So, rather than hearing what the other person has to say, they’ll be thinking about what to say next or act like it’s a contest of one-upping each other. Notice the text says quick to listen.
2. Learning Before Responding. Careful listening requires incorporating what you hear – what you learn – into your response. If your response is detached and not relevant to what you heard, you have wasted that opportunity to skillful living in that conversation, much less benefitting from or building your communication and relationships. Your speech needs to be measured, deliberate and responding to what you have heard.
3. Responding with Appropriateness. The instruction of James, half brother of Jesus, warns against anger – that self-interest and lashing out that reflects nothing of the righteousness of God. Absent the uniqueness of prophetic zeal in the Old Testament, or Jesus’ confrontation of the Pharisees in the temple, there is nothing in the whole of the Bible that justifies anger. Anger never is good, never is beneficial, always is destructive, manipulative and controlling. That is why our text closes with an affirmation for humility. All of this comes together for the humble person, the one who places the interests of God, and of others, before ourselves.
– John Moore