Be Quick to Listen: James 1:19 (Article)


I have a confession to make; I interrupt people. That seems a bit trivial. But it is symptomatic of a deeper problem. 

  • Sometimes I think I know what other people are about to say, so I say it for them. 

  • Sometimes I have a good answer, so I want to share instead of listen. 

  • Sometimes I want to do something else, so I interrupt to move things along. 

Over two thousand years ago, a Greek philosopher stated, “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say” (Zeno of Citium, 334 BC–262 BC). I like that. 

Jesus’s half-brother said something even more profound. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). Let me read that again. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” 

Be quick to hear. Why does God want us to be quick to hear? What value is there in listening? Listening is a gift we can offer others. People want to be known and heard, and understood. I do. Do you? God calls us to listen. It is an expression of love, care, and we might learn a thing or two. So, let us be quick to listen. 

Be slow to speak. Why? In my interrupting, I speak out of ignorance. I may misunderstand and speak words that I regret. God wants us to be wise, not foolish. Therefore, let us be slow to speak. 

Be slow to anger. It is not a sin to be angry at evil. But most of my anger is not that. It is about not getting my way. God wants us to control our emotions. He wants us to be slow to anger just like he is. 

How? How can we offer the gift of listening instead of the curse of interrupting? 

How can we guard our mouths and hearts and minds? 

The power comes from the Holy Spirit. 

How do we have the Holy Spirit? 

When we trust that Jesus died for our sins, and turn from our sin to follow him, God gives us the Holy Spirit to obey and change. He trains us, empowers us, and invites us to move towards him as long as we have breath.

Brothers and sisters join me in following Jesus, who himself was quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. 


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