Anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time soon realizes that not everyone who claims to belong to Christ actually has a saving relationship with the Savior. Unfortunately, too many people are Christian in name only, and their lives are not characterized by a pattern of repentance to God and obedience to His Word.
Professing Christ is not enough; we also must actually possess faith in the Savior. True faith expresses itself not only in word but also in deed. This understanding is found throughout the Bible.
The book of James is especially concerned with explaining that faith is not authentic unless it responds to life in certain ways. The living faith that is effectual for salvation always results in a changed life that demonstrates a willingness to obey God in all things. This obedience is in no way meritorious; however, it does serve to demonstrate that saving faith is present in the individual.
Over the next few weeks, we will focus on this theme as we finish our study of James 1 and move on to chapter 2. Today’s passage forms a transition from discussing the purification of faith in trials to the obedience that results from true faith. We are told in 1:19 that we all must “be quick to hear, slow to speak,” and “slow to anger.”
We must do all these things because “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires” (v. 20). James writes here not of the gift of perfect righteousness and right legal standing we receive if we are in Christ. Rather, he speaks more generally of the right living that God desires of His people, of the obedience to God’s law that, while not salvific, is still demanded by the Lord.
Authentic faith seeks to please God in all things. However, if we are too quick to rush to judgment, if we are too willing to jump to conclusions without allowing our brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt, we run the risk of becoming angry in a sinful manner and speaking hastily. James tells us today that if we are slow to hear our fellow believers, we might burn with unjustified and unrighteous anger and thereby do things that do not please God. We must therefore take the time to understand others before jumping to conclusions.
All of us can recall times when we were too quick to speak and not quick enough to hear the whole story. Some of the most hurtful things that we have said or that have been said to us have been said in situations where the parties involved have become angry all too quickly. If you have said something hurtful in the heat of an angry moment, go and make amends for your comment. And, as you converse with others, listen carefully before speaking your mind.