“Swift To Hear, Slow to Speak, Slow to Wrath”

Swift To Hear, Slow To Speak, Slow to Wrath – “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” 
(James 1:19)

Throughout scripture, particularly Proverbs, the LORD tells us to be more ready to hear than speak. He tells us that a fool is known by his constant talk, while a wise man listens well, heeds counsel and rebuke, and “studieth to answer.” Fact is, we have a lot to learn and don’t know much; and “if any man thinketh he knoweth anything (has all the answers) he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” So we need to do a lot less talking and a lot more listening.

“Let every one of us be SWIFT TO HEAR.”

We don’t know everything and we won’t learn anything if we aren’t “swift to hear.” The ear and the mouth do not work together. When one is open the other is shut. The ear is best left open while the mouth is better left shut. If we are too busy talking we will miss something worth hearing. “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Faith is not big talk, but good hearing. We have a lot to learn from God’s Word so we need to be “swift to hear” . . . ready and waiting, like a little child . . . eager to listen and learn. The longer we live the more we will realize that we haven’t learned much of anything worth learning. It is a crying shame that we know more about useless things than the “one thing needful”; that we can quote useless information but can’t quote very much of God’s Word.

The more a man grows in grace, the more he will listen and the less he will speak. Growth in grace is growth in meekness and humility. Humility makes a person dislike speaking of self and more ready to hear from others. Humility makes one listen with compassion and interest. True love is interested in the loved one, what they have to say; while self-love is more interested in what self has to say. The more a man grows in grace the more he will hate himself, and deny self. A big part of denying self is being tired of hearing your own voice. We deny self by denying that we have any self importance, knowledge, or wisdom that would make others want to hear from us. If we truly esteem other better than ourselves we would rather hear from them, than they hear from us, especially concerning our Lord’s Word. So, let every one of us be “SWIFT TO HEAR.”

“Let every man be SLOW TO SPEAK.”

Scripture says: “A fool speaketh all his mind” . . . A fool is readily known. He is quick to speak and his folly and ignorance is quickly known. But, “even a fool is thought to be wise when he holds his peace.” Someone once said, “It is better to keep our mouths shut and be thought a fool, than to open our mouths and remove all doubt.” How many times have we opened our big mouths too soon, spoken all our mind, let people have a piece of our mind, popped off, spoken off the top of our head, made a fool of ourselves by spouting off, and soon regretted it? How many times? Then later we curse ourselves for not keeping quiet. O’ how we should be “slow to speak!” Dear old brother Shanks once said, “Take every opportunity to SHUT UP!” Scripture says, “he that keepeth his mouth keepeth his soul from many troubles.” If we are “slow to speak”, not giving a reply or opinion too quickly, if we think about it a little bit, we may not say anything at all, or may have a change of mind. This is especially true when hearing God’s Word preached. I remember my pastor once say, ‘don’t judge something you’ve heard in five minutes that I spent five days studying.’

We may learn something from listening and be glad we didn’t speak and reveal our ignorance. The admonition of the LORD is, “God is in Heaven and thou upon earth, let thy words be few.” I remember once as a young boy, bragging and boasting of something to my friends (as young boys do, especially in a crowd); when I turned around and my dad was standing there listening. He knew me well and I wilted under his knowing look. The all-knowing LORD hears us spout off and He knows us! Best not to say much in His presence. Better to be “swift to hear and slow to speak.”

“Let every man be SLOW TO WRATH.”

Sometimes we get mad or offended when someone disagrees or takes issue with us. The reason scripture tells us to “admonish one another” is because we need a great deal of straightening out. Quite often, after getting mad at someone for crossing us, we find out they were right and we were wrong. And if it was something helpful to us, something that might prevent us from making a mistake, we should be glad, not mad, that they crossed us. If we think too highly of ourselves we will think too highly of our opinions and get mad when someone disagree with us. Fact is, we are all sometimes foolish, and at all times sinners, so we should not be so easily offended by someone who disagrees with a foolish sinner. May the LORD make us “swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath.” May He give us faith and wisdom by hearing, discretion in speaking, and meekness and humility to loathe ourselves and love others.

P. Mahan

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