by Joanna Harader
Scripture: James 1:19-22 (New International Readers’ Version)
My dear brothers and sisters, pay attention to what I say. Everyone should be quick to listen. But they should be slow to speak. They should be slow to get angry. Human anger doesn’t produce the holy life God wants. So get rid of everything that is sinful. Get rid of the evil that is all around us. Don’t be too proud to accept the word that is planted in you. It can save you.
Don’t just listen to the word. You fool yourselves if you do that. You must do what it says.
“Don’t just listen to the word. . . . You must do what it says.” -James 1:22
James is a no-nonsense book. A book of action. A book written by someone who clearly knew first-hand the struggles of living within a faith community. The lessons of James are often applied to congregations, but Christian families are also faith communities.
This is good advice whether we are trying to get along at church or at school or at work or around the dining room table. We live in a culture that encourages us to be quick to speak—or at least quick to tweet what we think about the latest news item or music star; at least quick to post flattering pictures of ourselves on instagram; at least quick to share the details of our life in a Facebook status. (That’s not to say that social media is necessarily part of the “evil that is all around us,” just to note the societal pressure to be quick to speak.)
It is interesting that the writer of James first tells us to be “quick to listen,” and then writes, “Don’t just listen to the word.” Sometimes this final part of our scripture reading gets used to belittle the importance of listening—or Bible study and worship and prayer. “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only.” But the listening, the hearing, is vitally important. It is the listening that helps us be slow to speak. It is the listening that helps us be slow to anger. It is the listening that lets us know what exactly it is that God is calling us to do.
For Family Discussion
- Tell about a time that you spoke too quickly or got mad too easily. Why do you think you responded that way? What happened? What would you like to do differently next time?
- Tell about a time you feel that you listened well. What helped you be able to listen? What did you do in response to what you heard? Is there something you think God is still calling you to do?
- At your next family meal, practice being quick to listen. Give each person a chance to share, uninterrupted, about their day, their passion, their worries, their plans . . . anything they want.
- Interview someone you consider to be a “doer of the word”–maybe a family member of someone at church. Practice your listening skills and consider what God might be calling you to do in response to what you hear.
We thank you for your Word that teaches us how to live with each other.
Please help us to listen well and to speak carefully.
In our listening to others, let us hear your voice.
And guide us by the power of the Holy Spirit to do those things you call us to do. Amen.