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]
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.