SCRIPTURE: James 19-21, NLT

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.


Although verse 21 introduces a sermon on the word of God, tonight we are going to deal primarily with  verses 19-20 with some reference to verse 20. James is going to have a lot to say about the tongue. In chapter 3 James says…But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.  And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself So our plan tonight is to talk a little about the tongue, a lot about listening and more about anger. 


Someone did a study of the 10 most harmful books and Hitler’s Mein Kampf was 2nd. The Communist Manifesto was first. Someone said for every single word in Mein Kampf, 750 people died. I doubt that many of us have this kind of capability to hurt millions but we do say things that hurt other people and sometimes we are intentional in the things we say. When ever a person uses their tongue with the intent to hurt, it is not a slip or a mistake, it is a malicious act of the will. You know yourself that when you hear a morsel of gossip, it plants a seed of doubt in your mind. I have absolutely no doubt that they are people who are acting in hatred toward others and don’t even know why. Truth be known they were influenced by someone they trust to the point of believing a lie.

The media has been unreliable for as long as I can remember but my daddy swore on anything that CBS and Dan Rather said. Dan got fired for lying but it was not his first lie, it was the first one that embarrassed the network. Brian Williams lied and has been demoted temporarily but he will be back. Liberals don’t have a problem with lying so long as they don’t get embarrassed and the Clinton don’t even blush when they get caught.

Unfortunately a careless word can be as hurtful as a malicious word. The tongue has no bones but it is strong enough to break a heart. When it comes to carelessness, I can’t think of anyone who has made more mistakes than myself. Several years ago, I expressed an opinion in the presence of a trouble maker. I had an uncomfortable feeling when I left his house. I share it in confidence but I knew he was going to break the confidence and he did that and more. He created a mess and lots of people were hurt because of my carelessness.

I actually envy quiet people. James Russell Lowell said, “Blessed are those who have nothing to say and can’t be persuaded to say it.” Zeno the philosopher said, “We have two ears and one tongue. We should listen twice as much as we talk.”

Proverbs 10:19 reads, Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.  Proverbs 17:28 says, Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. Proverbs 29:20 states, There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.

The song says “Silence is Golden” but it can also be yellow. There are times when we need to speak but we always need to be careful about what we speak.


Listening is a lost art. I was visiting a lady yesterday who is battling cancer and she was telling me about her aunt. If she called on the phone or came to see you; she went click-I-dee-clack until she had said her peace and then she was really to go home. She was interested in talking but had no interest in listening.

Listening does not come natural to most of us. I am a horrible listener but I know some that are worse than myself. You can’t get a word in edge ways and you cannot get them off the subject.

Listen is an art, it is a discipline, it is a habit to be cultivated, it is a ministry. Everyone longs to be listened to. If you have one person that cares about you enough to listen, you are blessed.

  • Be quick to hear and slow to speak
  • Quick to praise and slow to critique
  • Quick to reward and slow to punish.
  • Quick to help and slow to harm


James said, “Human anger does not produce the results that God desires.” Generally speaking, we are not a good witness when we are mad.  Jesus did get angry from time to time but it was always righteous indignation. Most of our anger is an extension of our self life. Most of the time, we are angry because something did not go our way.

Tasker says:

  1. A man’s wrath cannot please God. Anger is generally a stubborn determination to do things or way even if it results in a fit.
  2. No one can see Christ in us when we are angry. They can see Him in love, kindness and honesty but not in uncontrolled anger.
  3. Every convert comes to Christianity with a lot of unnecessary baggage. The Christian life is a process of letting go of the things we don’t need and anger is one of them.

Paul uses the Greek word Praytes in verse 21, Barclay says it is untranslatable, no word in English to match it. Praytes describes the perfect conquest and control of everything in a man’s nature which would hinder him from seeing, learning and obeying the truth. It is used 13 times in the NT and translated Meekness, Gentleness, Humility and Consideration and it is all of those things. A gentle, humble person is meek and considerate.

The word is associate with the domestication of an animal like a horse. The horse has more power than a man but with training and discipline, the horse can come under man’s control and be useful. I have always associated “Meekness” with strength under control.

The person with praytes is above all teachable: Barclay says….

  1. They are humble enough to listen
  2. They are not blocked by anger and rage
  3. They desire to know the truth
  4. They are not a slave to resentment
  5. They want to overcome their prejudices
  6. They are eager to learn–not lazy
  7. They accept discipline


Scripture: James 1:16-18, NLT

16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. 18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.


Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.


God is not the author of lies and deception. Jesus taught is John 8 that the devil is the author of lies and deception. Jesus said to the Pharisees–“For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. Jesus is the light. He knows and wants to be known. Jesus has nothing to hid and there is no reason why He would want to deceive anyone but the devil is into deception big time. He is a liar and deceiver. He deceived Eve and has been deceiving since.

The devil uses deception in temptation. Without the power of the lie, temptation would be easy to resist but the devil knows how to hide the hook. God is good: He does not tempt nor can He be tempted. So James stresses two points in regards to temptation: [1] God is good and this is revealed in the gifts He gives. God is generous: He gives, He gives good gifts, He gives constantly and He gives with the right motive. [2] God is Immutable; He does not change. Matter of fact it would be impossible for God to change. He is holy so he cannot change for the worse and he is perfect so He cannot change for the better. God doesn’t need to change and He does not. Everything in His creation is in a state of change but God is forever the same.

With these two attributes understood, let’s follow an outline from Dr. Warren Wiersbe [I tweaked it a bit].

In regards to TEMPTATION…WE NEED TO LOOK AHEAD…We need to envision where this act of disobedience is going to take us. For every action, there is a consequence. If you commit murder, there are consequences. It you rob a bank and get caught, there are consequence. If you leave you wife and children for another woman, there are consequences. If you drink like a fish, there are consequences. If you smart off to your boss, there are consequences. If you speed and get caught, there are severe consequences.

If you fear God and believe in accountability before Him, it will help you overcome temptation. I am not a rocket scientist but I know that the law of retribution is woven into the fabric of the universe and what ever I sow, I will reap. It may be years before I reap but I will reap. Sometimes the harvest season is much longer than the planting season. I reaped through my children and now through my grandchildren. God is just and He is merciful. I have never reaped what I did not sow but God has been kind in that while I was reaping, no one knew it except He and I. I am not a good man. It is not my virtue that keeps me from sin, it is my fear of God and my fear of the consequences. I wish I could honestly say that I have no desire to sin, ever: that my motives and mind are always pure but they are not. I do read the fine print, I do look ahead and it would be wise for you to look ahead.

When I am pleading with a spouse not to leave their mate; I try desperately to get them to look ahead, to fast forward 20 years but most refuse to look at the undeniable consequences that are coming.

The second thing in regards to temptation IS LOOK BACK AND SEE HOW GOOD GOD HAS BEEN TO US. God is good but when I look back over my life, it seems that He has been especially good to me. For me to turn to my own way and ignore His commandment is an act of gross ingratitude. Mrs. Potiphar may have been hot; rich people do have a knack of attracting beautiful women. Joseph did not seduce Mrs. Potiphar, she seduced him and not once but again and again and again. Her lust was so aflame that she tried to disrobe him and force him to lay with her. The first time she seduced him, Joseph said… “Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.” What was Joseph doing? He was looking back at how good God had been to him. His master trusted him. He was in authority over the entire estate: he probably had his own chariot and credit card. He lacked for nothing. For him to sleep with Mrs. P would be an act of ingratitude toward his master and a sin against God.

The consequences of sin and the fear of God should deter us from sin but hopefully we can get to another level where I love for God and our thankfulness for what He has done for us will also deter us.

The third LOOK IS TO LOOK IN. James said in verse 18, “He chose to give birth to us by giving us His true word.”

First of all, in all my years of reading through the bible, I did not remember seeing this verse. I remembered it in the KJV and NASB but not in the NLT. Dr. Wiersbe and others agree that the NLT got it right– James is alluding to the new birth which takes place when we hear the word of God and are convicted by the Holy Spirit.

It takes a father and mother to have a child, a birth. In the Spiritual Realm, it takes two parents to produce a spiritual birth, the WORD and the HOLY SPIRIT.  For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. [1 Peter 1:23]

The Holy Spirit and the word convict us and bring us to Christ. John the Baptist is a type of the Holy Spirit, he preached repentance which prepares us for Christ. No man can receive Christ who has not repented. When we get saved, the Holy Spirit invades our human spirit and takes residence in our life. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ living in us. This is the source of our inner strength.

R.V. G. Tasker [Professor at the University of London and contributing editor of Tyndale Commentary] says, “Of all God’s good gifts, the new birth is the greatest.”

Speaking of the indwelling Christ Paul said, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

To overcome temptation: We must Treasure God’s word, we must remember that God is good, He is trustworthy and we need to rely on the indwelling Holy Spirit who is our inner strength.

I don’t watch a lot of TV because most of the programs today are either boring or unsuitable for my task. I do confess that I like a good western every now and then and I love history. Several months ago, I caught the very end of the “Star Man” starring Jeff Bridges [1984]. A life form from a more advance world visited earth. Although he had been invited, he was not given a warm welcome. His vastly superior intelligence warned him immediately that earth was not a safe place but this was after he had cloned himself a human body from a strand of hair in a picture album. For the next three days, we have a alien life form living in a human body. He is more intelligent and has far greater power. He has simple solutions to things that are a mystery to us. One of his gifts is to heal and if necessary, restore life. This cat can raise the dead. Does this remind you of anyone? Jesus had vastly superior intellect; Jesus could heal the sick and Jesus could raise the dead. Paul said in Romans 8:11–The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.


In our lifelong struggle with temptation, we need all the help we can get and that help has been provided by a gracious, good and giving God. He has given us His word as a lamp unto our feet and light unto our path. He has given us good gifts that affirm His goodness and lets us know we can trust Him. He has given us the indwelling Holy Spirit to strengthen our inner man. This is why Paul could say, For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. You can win the battle over temptation but not without Help!