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

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