James, a bond-servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, writes: “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires” (1:19-20).
Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of teaching the Open Bible Study at my church, Ninth and O Baptist. The assigned topic was “Anger,” and I taught from James 1:19-27. After surveying the complexities of anger throughout Scripture we landed here because of James’ short, yet powerful, admonition to throw off the filthiness of anger and to embrace the word which can save your soul (v. 21).
There is much to be heard in James about anger, but it is apparent that he is not writing anything novel. He draws heavily on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and the wisdom of the Old Testament. Below is a list of Proverbs that surely informed James understanding of anger and speech, wisdom and foolishness, and the intricate relationships between them. They call us who want to walk in the way of wisdom to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Read them slowly and ask: Does my life display wisdom or foolishness?
(The italicized words are the verse, ESV. What follows the “=” attempts to synthesize the proverb).
12:15 The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice = listening quells anger
12:16The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult = foolish anger is not hidden
14:17 A man of quicker temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated = sudden anger is foolish
14:29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly
15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger = anger provokes more anger
15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention = patient assuages anger
15:32 Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
16:32 Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city = those who possess the earth through force, violence, and oppression are in the end small men
19:11 Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is to his glory to overlook an offense = anger ruins reputations, while controlling anger gains honor
19:19 A man of great wrath will pay the penalty, for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again = anger is not a isolated incident; it is a pattern, a way of life, a means of gaining ground in life
19:20 Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.
20:2 Whoever provokes [terrible king] to anger forfeits his life = anger + power = death for the object of wrath
21:14 A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath = anger is assuaged through by payment
21:5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
22:24f Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with wrathful man; lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare = the result of anger is a snare (i.e. entrapment, bondage, and death)
25:8 What your eyes have seen do not hastily bring into court, for what will you do in the end when your neighbor puts you to shame? = Hasty accusations fail to gather all the facts and result in personal shame
27:4 Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? = the characteristic that makes anger so dangerous is the fact that what may appear controlled is in fact intractable
28:20 A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
29:22 A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression = the damning effects of anger are far reaching because one man’s anger promotes sin in the lives of others
30:33 For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife = the fruit of anger is strife (i.e. division, discord, and the separation of relationships)
5:1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools…be not rash with you mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and your are on earth. Therefore, let your words be few.
7:8-9 Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient spirit is better than the proud spirit;
Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools = anger is complicit with foolishness, the fool becomes angry; anger is not like something spilt on the hand or something stepped in by the foot, which can easily be removed or cleansed. Anger roots itself deep within the soul of the (wo)man and becomes lodged. It ensnares! Anger is a way of life, not easily discarded and one that arises in all sorts of unbecoming ways, proving a man’s folly.
May we flee folly and run to the all-wise one, Jesus Christ!
Sola Deo Gloria, dss