As the dogs and I were walking along, I noticed that Marci was walking differently. I picked her up and found something on the bottom of her foot that I quickly removed.
Observation – paying attention – requires us to be intentional. It is necessary to be intentional to understand the needs of the people around you. In this busy world, we often don’t listen when someone is talking with us, because we are trying to contemplate the best answer to the conversation or even thinking about the next task we must accomplish, looking beyond the current interaction. Many times, we are so stuck on ourselves and our goal is to be heard instead of to listen. Also, we are rarely present in the moment, and yet this presence is what is needed to show love and compassion to others. Time is precious, and how you use time is a choice. Do you choose to run around on empty and allow the situations around you to dictate your actions? Do you attempt to be in the moment wherever you are at, being at attention, and calmly following the leading of your Father?
Notice that Jesus was always intentional—always present – and able to understand the needs of those around Him. He spent much time in prayer. He spent much time interacting with people, whereby He invested in their lives, actively listening and engaging in conversation. Conversation, such a lost art today.
Today, be mindful of what is happening around you. Wherever you go, be there. Slow down. Listen for His still small voice. Invest in those before you. Enjoy the people God has put before you, and ask God how you can bless them today to bring Him glory.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” – James 1:19 [ESV]
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3 [NIV]
I talk a lot. Always have; perhaps I always will. It has certainly been something I had to be mindful of because speaking can get you in trouble. The Bible speaks a lot about the words we speak and even the action of speaking. We are to be quick to listen and we are to be slow to speak.
If we are slow to speak, it allows us to think before we put our foot in our mouth. It also can keep us from sinning. It could prevent you from saying something hurtful or destructive to someone you care about when you are angry or frustrated. Something that is said cannot be unsaid. It’s important that we have the ability to bite our tongue, even if we are right. If we speak without thinking, we will leave behind us a path of destruction.
This verse also speaks about being quick to listen. Listening is often an issue for us. We want to talk. We want to share everything. I think we may like the sound of our own voices. It’s a me world. Listening is harder. It means you are allowing others to control the flow of the conversation. It means you are focused and taking in what the other is saying. Hopefully it means you are truly paying attention to the person. As you listen, you get to know more. As you listen, you basically are acknowledging that the speaker matters. Today, aim to be slower to speak and quicker to listen. Control your tongue.
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19 [NLT]
When I was grocery shopping, I wanted to get a handful of different types of meats to prepare during the week. I saw the freezer area that typically contains the sale items. Sitting within the enclosed case were sweet brown sugar ham steaks. The price was absent. The price holder was there; however, they had not displayed the price card. Though I am very OCD with my budgeting, I decided to grab a few ham steaks since they were in the sale case. I figured I could get two for five bucks; that was the usual sale price.
I soon found out that the price wasn’t even close. Yes, the ham steaks were in the sale case; however, there was a reason that the price card was absent. The sale started the following day—a sale that required a certain purchase amount, thereby making the ham steaks only a dollar. What was my great price? Four dollars for just one! Boy did I allow myself to get led in the wrong line of thinking. If I waited another day and had the coupon that arrived in my mailbox, I would have enjoyed nice savings. As they say, looks are deceiving.
We often allow ourselves to see something and think one thing, and yet we are not even close to knowing the truth. The devil loves to trick us into thinking one thing is likely true, when it is anything but the truth. The devil plays on our fears and our doubts. He knows what will be most tempting. He knows what will pull you away from focusing on God. Remember that God wants us to fix our eyes on truth, to live truth, to know Truth. To do this, means that we devote ourselves to Jesus Christ, and we dedicate time for individual Bible reading and group study. Church attendance is important too. Allowing the Spirit to move is crucial. When you do this, you allow yourself to be filled with God’s Truth, and it is then more difficult for you to be led astray. Note, I didn’t say you won’t get led astray—only that it will be harder to be led astray. Today, take a step closer to Jesus. Spend time in His Word. Seek out His Truth. Pray for His Truth to be revealed. And then listen.
“He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” – James 1:18-22 [NLT]
The Bible talks a lot about those who talk a lot. I have spent a lot of time studying some of the verses about talking a lot because I talk a lot. We are told to be “slow to speak” (James 1:19). We read that, “Too much talk leads to sin.” (Proverbs 10:19). Keeping one’s mouth shut comes from one considered to be “a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:28). The Bible also says that “mere talk leads to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23).
Today’s verse speaks about a fool who multiples words. It also reminds us that no man knows what is going to come. The issue we can see in this verse is that the person is not simply speaking a lot, but the person is a foolish person. Why is the person a foolish person? The only thing we can read into from this verse is that the person is a fool because he is speaking about something that he cannot understand or foresee. Maybe he is a fool for other reasons, but this is the one reason addressed.
We all know that person who is a “know-it-all” type of person. We are called to be humble and speak truth. Often I find myself in the middle of a conversation I know little about so I keep quiet or speak minimally. I don’t know much about pop culture. I don’t know a great deal about sports. It would be foolish for me to start up a full on conversation about these topics. But to the fool mentioned in this verse, he will ramble on and on trying to make it appear like he knows what is going on, like he knows what is to come. This person may talk a lot because he likes the sound of his voice or he is trying to be important in another’s eyes. He may be trying to puff himself up. At times, listeners may even be tempted to believe what the person is saying and possibly be led astray. This person will keep talking even if they no longer know what they are saying is true. This is a bad habit and certainly is a pathway straight to sin (Proverbs 10:19). To avoid being this fool, speak only what is true, and work on your listening skills. You learn a lot more from listening. Be quick to listen (James 1:19).
“A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him?” – Ecclesiastes 10:14 [ESV]
One day a fellow lost his keys. He retraced his steps and could not locate the lost keys. He looked everywhere. He asked everyone. No one had found the keys. He was worried and later the worry turned to anger. The keys had to be somewhere. Why can’t they be found?
The gentleman was so angry that he went outside and began to pound on the trash receptacle. He kicked it again and again. He started to tear into the trash can and caused a huge scene. Someone had to step forward and tell him to calm down and leave.
What an impression the fellow left!?! Now whenever I see him I can only think of the actions he took while in a fit of rage. I cannot help but remember the scene outside. It is so easy to let anger control you. It is so easy to be quick to get angry. But as James wrote, it “does not produce the righteousness God desires.” And it always leaves a bad impression that certainly does not give God the glory He rightfully deserves. Today, be slow to speak. Don’t allow anger to control you. Give it to God and be quick to listen.
“And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.” – Ephesians 4:26 [NLT]
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” – James 1:19-20 [NLT]
“After thinking it over, I spoke out against these nobles and officials. I told them, ‘You are hurting your own relatives by charging interest when they borrow money!’ Then I called a public meeting to deal with the problem.” – Nehemiah 5:7 [NLT]
I love the beginning of this verse. “After thinking it over, I spoke” is what Nehemiah says. It doesn’t say, “When I found out, I became frustrated and immediately took action.” Nehemiah thought about it, pondered, took counsel, consulted with himself… the HCSB says, “After seriously considering.”
Now Nehemiah had set to rebuild the wall. He waited three days before he even spoke up about what he wanted to do because he wanted to see for himself. He examined the area. He then delegated the workload so no one was burdened. It then comes to his attention that there are people who are very poor because of injustice. Nehemiah did not rush in to verbally attack those who were guilty. Instead, he thought about it. He took the time consider everything before he went forward to make accusations. In doing so, he calmly proclaimed the problems and there was then justice for these poor people.
Today consider your words and your emotions. We are to be slow to speak and we are to watch our anger (James 1:19-20). Again and again we are reminded. It’s hard to keep our mouths in check at times, but once something is said, it cannot be taken back.