Taming The Tongue James 1:17-27
‘I am so sorry’ were the first words I spoke, when I was on the telephone to the Managing Partner.
Lucy knew that something had gone amiss, when I was tossing and turning all night after having spent a long evening with a delegation from the London office in the restaurants and bars of Tokyo.
During the course of that evening, and having had far too much to drink, I lost it with the Managing Partner: I was rude and aggressive.
There had been rolled out to us some new policy from London which failed to reflect the challenging situation we were facing in Japan, and he was not a man to give a hearing to another point of view.
But then neither was I….and he was the boss.
Listening is such an incredibly important part of being a Christian: Listening to God; Listening to others.
And listening involves being slow to get angry and sometimes we have to put down things which we enjoy, like alcohol, if they impede our ability to listen, particularly if we get angry when we have it.
Because, although anger can be righteous and, of course, Jesus was angry in the Temple with the money changers, mostly, we have not reached a level of sanctity that our anger is not heavily impregnated with sin: self importance, self assertion, intolerance and stubbornness!
Anger can block our ability to listen and this really matters because the willingness with which we listen to others often reflects our willingness to listen to God.
We can sit in church and listen to the word (verse 22) but not do what it says (verse 23); it all becomes forgettable….what we are effectively doing is sticking our fingers in our ears and going ‘la la la la’ to anything which is said. Not only must we listen to the word, but also do what it says….if we are Christians, and that means, according to James (verse 27), looking after others and keeping ourselves from being polluted by the world.
Of course, it is a challenge, but we must be determined to change our choices, so that our habits can change and as our habits change, so will our character.
We will slip up from time to time, but it is not acceptable to do so. And we may find that we have to come back to God (and to those who were affected) as I did in that telephone call in Tokyo with the words ‘I am so sorry’.
17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
Hearing and Doing the Word
19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.