Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to
hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: James 1:19 KJV
In the above passage of scripture, we are admonished by James to be slow to speak. What does this imply and why is it necessary to be slow to speak? To answer the question, one must first establish the message James was conveying at this juncture of his treatise. James 1:20 says, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” The NIV puts it this way, “…for man’s anger does bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Take note of the phrase, “…the righteous life that God desires.” This means God is after something; a righteous life. Thus James was talking about producing righteousness. It may be correct to say that the primary objective is not to be slow to speak, but that we produce or bring forth righteousness. Being slow to speak is just one of the means to achieving this objective.
In the Scriptures, we can identify two kinds of righteousness. In Romans 5:17, Paul talked about the “gift of righteousness” which comes by faith in Jesus Christ. This righteousness is automatic and inward. It refers to a right standing with God on the basis of the death and resurrection of Christ. But we are also told of the righteousness that we do. 1 John 3:7 puts it like this: he that doeth righteousness is righteous.. This righteousness has to do with our deeds or actions. In the letter of James, it is the practice (visible display) of righteousness that he was talking about. And his goal was to show us the things that will impede the outworking of this righteousness.
The reason why we must be slow to speak and slow to wrath is so that we may bring forth the righteous life that God desires. By implication, we can say that one thing that will prevent us from bringing forth righteousness is a loose tongue. Anyone who desires to walk in righteousness must learn to control his tongue.
Proverbs 10:19 says “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” The New Living Translation puts it this way, “Don’t talk too much, for it fosters sin. Be sensible and turn off the flow!” We must not miss the point; Don’t talk too much, for it fosters sin. What is meant by too much talk is careless talk. The point is, the more you talk, the more likely you are to sin.
Note that we are not necessarily referring to being loquacious. Some people are naturally talkers. And there is nothing wrong with that. What we learn from the scripture is that we must not use words as weapons to hurt other people. Proverbs 10:19 is not saying we should not talk, what it says is that we should refrain our lips. The Hebrew word for refraineth is khaw-sak’ which means to restrain or control. What this is telling us is that we should choose what comes out of our lips. Ephesians 4:29 (NLT) captures the point : “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
Proverbs 17:27-28 (NLT) puts it like this, “A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought to be wise when they keep silent; when they keep their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.”
The point of all we are saying is that using the tongue aright is important if we are going to bring forth the righteousness or character of God. James 1:26 tells us that “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. It would seem that true Christianity begins with how we use our tongue.
Someone once said that we are masters of our unspoken words, and the slave to those that should have remained unsaid. Decide today that you will honour God with your mouth as His beloved child.
Let us pray: Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalms 19:14)