“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20 ESV
Public speaking ranks number one of most common fears according to IBM, where fear of death ranks at a mere seventh place. Josh used to jokingly say that people would rather die than have his job as a preacher. Why are people deathly afraid of speaking in front of a group of people? If we are honest, we realize that in the matter of speech we tend to blow it—big time! Since we tend to stumble in our speech, who then wants to have the spotlight while speaking and risk public humiliation? Moreover, there is a right kind of fear of speaking… fear of offending a Holy God with careless words. “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak…” (Mt 12:36) It would be helpful to imagine the real spiritual realm by which God himself and the heavenly host are listening to our every word. Satan wants to find fault and accuse us. Rather than being quick to jump the gun with our speech, we must be still and know that he is God and King. We can think of it as a dance and being in step with God as our lead. “James’s order of response sounds like a dance step: quick, slow, slow; quick, slow, slow. We must be: quick to hear and obey God; slow to speak, since.” (Linda Killian, Developing a Heavenly Mind Control) This holds especially true when hearing from Him personally through the Bible. He is God Almighty who created everything out of nothing, holds the universe together, and is God only wise…we ought to be attentive to what He has to say! It makes perfect logical sense. However, our sinful sense drives us mad!
Madness is was drives us to hell. It is our bent toward having our own way rather than accepting God’s redemptive plan. It’s not believing He is good even though he demonstrated His great love in the most heroic and selfless ways when he gave up His glory in exchange for taking our shame, our punishment and our rightly deserved wrath on the cross. Anger in the human sense goes against God and His righteousness. Therefore, we must imperatively put it off. If we listen to His voice through the Spirit and the Word instead, we stand a chance at winning the battle over our speech and hearts in a sanctifying way that yields the fruit of wisdom. “Anger, filthiness and wickedness impede the right reception of the word and are the attitudes that must be ‘put off’.” “When rightly received, the word that has been implanted by the gracious God in the soul of the believer is able to save our souls. This expression does not refer to the initial act of salvation, as it is often assumed, but to the ongoing and continuous work of restoring the inner life of the believer.” (William Varner, The Book of James)
Heavenly Father and King, praise and adoration are the pure and right words becoming of ones you’ve saved from the fiery hell we got ourselves in. Forgive us for our sinful speech and the ways we allow anger to fester in our hearts. Thank you for Christ and His free offer of righteous in Him. May we embrace it with thankfulness, realizing everything we do and say has a public audience that can either bring shameful reproach or the fitting glory that is due to the name of Jesus. In whose name we pray.