Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
James 1:19 NLT
Ever wondered why one mouth is twice as hurtful as two ears are helpful? One mouth . . . two ears . . . yet, most only listen half as much as we talk.
James, the brother of Jesus wrote his letter to first century Christ followers giving practical and insightful advice for living an influential and impacting life. He found an undeniable link between our readiness to listen and our resulting necessity to speak. If we do one, we can’t do the other. And, if we master listening, we will minimize hostility.
Quick To Listen. We often lean in to listen. It becomes our initial and intuitive response. We are ready and willing to open our ears. Earnest Hemmingway said, “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” Solomon links listening to wise living. He writes, “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” (Prov 12:15 NLT). Keeping a reign on the rambling can result in a reputation of reasoning. The wise king writes, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” (Prov 17:28 ESV) Jesus taught the value of listening and learning, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matt 7:24 ESV)
Slow To Speak. A. D. Willams said, “Words have special powers . . . to lift up or put down . . . to heal or harm. Choose your words carefully.” Wandering words can lead to waste or wreck. Solomon wrote, “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.” (Prov 10:19 NLT). We often think that telling others how to live gives them a meaningful life. James reminds us, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.” (Jam1:26 NLT)
Slower To Anger. A quickness to anger quenches our peace. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “For every minute you remain angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind.” Anger has a destructive and demoralizing effect. It is described as a raging fire that consumes everything in its path. American satirist Mark Twain said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” Losing it can label us. Solomon is direct in his advice, “Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.” (Ecc 7:9 NLT).
Frank Thager wrote, “Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.”
Two ears . . . One mouth. Two keep us from trouble . . . One gets us into it.
I like the way The Message clarifies this verse, “Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” (James 1:19 MSG)