Receive with Meekness
James is the letter that speaks much to the practice of the Christian faith. This is not to say that other letters don’t. Paul’s letters speak much of theology but never leave out practical application, nor do the other general epistles. Still, it is James who reminds us that faith without works is dead.
Well, it is at this place that James begins to step on our toes and will not let up until the very end. But there is so much here to hear as wisdom pours forth from his pen. “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, [and] slow to anger.” Oh, how much trouble do our tongues get us into! How many relationships have been destroyed? How many marriages ended simply because we could not control our tongues. James will speak even more specifically to the mischief our tongues can cause (3:1-12), for now he only reminds us to be “slow” to speak while being “quick” to hear—to listen intently while pondering our response—to understand the other before returning a meaningful answer. And then James tells us something that we should all commit to memory: “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Yes, Jesus got angry and cleansed the temple. And, yes, there is something called “righteous anger” Christians and even pagans will feel over gross injustices. But God does not call me to unleash my rage on offenders: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay,” says the Lord (10:30). I must learn to put my anger to constructive and holy uses through prayer and standing with the oppressed—like the unborn, those who suffer from sex trafficking, persecuted Christians, and like injustices. But I cannot stoop to the same methods of those who commit the injustice, lest I become like them; in other words, we must ever play by God’s rules.
So, James decides to pull all the stops here at the beginning of his letter: “Put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness.” The Apostle Peter agrees, “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3). It is past time for Christians to answer the call to holy living, certainly as that concerns sensuality. And how shall we grow in holiness? By receiving the implanted word, the word the Holy Spirit used to birth us anew unto salvation, the word that completes our salvation begun at our regeneration through its sanctifying work in our lives. But it must be applied to our lives—read, digested, and above all, obeyed. With such application of the word to our souls, we cannot not grow and be ready with a fit word when we have waited to speak (Proverbs 25:11).