James 1:19-20 has long been a verse I’ve tried to keep in the forefront of my mind.
This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20 NASB
So many things can quickly incite anger in our hearts and minds when we are not submissive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. It is crucial to be attentive to His guidance in all our responses so as to glorify God in all we do.
But, every time I have read that passage, I have wondered about its placement. It has never clicked in my mind how it flows with the rest of what James had to say in the surrounding verses. It seemed like a random thought. Especially with the “This you know, my beloved brethren,” at the beginning of the verse.
Then, for some odd reason, I was reading in both James 1 and 2 Corinthians 7 at the same time. I’m sure one was my regular reading and the other was preparing for something. But, in the process of reading the two together, something seemed to click. Look at 2 Cor 7:9:
I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 2 Cor 7:9 NASB
Paul was referring to some harsh words he had been forced to write to the Corinthians in an earlier letter. Although the words hurt deeply, and did cause anger among some, those who responded properly were driven to repentance by those words, bringing restoration in their relationships with God and fellow believers.
Likewise, in the context of James 1, James is pretty firmly pointing out to his readers some areas where they need to shape up. In the process of reprimanding them, he is reminding them that if they grow angry instead of listening, they will not see the repentance and growth that leads to the “righteousness of God.”
Preachers, teachers, parents, and friends often have hard words for us to hear. They don’t want to hurt us, but they know the truth that Paul and James knew – growth cannot occur without some pain. And, in all honesty, how much better is the pain inflicted by the firm words of someone who loves us than the pain we inflict upon ourselves because we refuse to obey?
So, what will it be? When we are taught, will we grow defensive, letting our anger block out the righteousness God desires to grow in us? Or will we allow ourselves to experiences the sorrow that brings us in line with the will of God? Neither one is comfortable. Neither one is fun. But, the consequences of one are far better than the hazards of another. May we be willing to be made sorrowful according to the will of God.