James Keen
A husband to Mary, a father of four, and a Pastor/Tent-Maker.
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Overcoming Anger with Truth
James 1:19-21
Sinful anger is quenched by the humble embrace of God's Word.
Published November 18th, 2016
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Main Point
Devotional Thought
Main Point
An unselfish and patient spirit that embraces God's truth in the midst of adversity will prevent the damage that can be caused by unrestrained fleshly anger.
Devotional Thought
The book of James has much to say about the source and repercussions of anger. James 4:1-10 is one of the most complete explanations on this subject in all of scripture, both diagnosing the source of and remedy for conflict. Yet in this first chapter, in the midst of teaching us about God's glorious purpose in trials, James provides this gem of truth regarding anger that both foreshadows the depth of wisdom that is to come and practically links this teaching to the subject at hand. When I think of trials, the emotion that first comes to mind is sorrow. Yet, when I think about the way trials have manifested themselves in my life, one of my most common responses is anger. The person or situation (a.k.a. "the trial") obstructing me from my plans or intentions often provokes anger in my heart. Why? Because I can be selfish and exalt my goals over God's plan for my life. Even the exaltation of good goals over God's plan is a form of the idolatry James later uncovers as the true root of sinful anger (James 4:3-4). It is amazing that idolatry hidden so deeply in our hearts, can manifest itself so quickly through a rash word and heightened temper. It is also amazing that despite such an obvious outward manifestation, idolatry can remain disguised, causing us to blame the trial for our response rather than see the true source of sin, the wickedness within our heart. This is where James' guidance becomes so personal and practical. The hinge of James 1:19-21 is found in verse 20. The sinful anger of man does not accomplish God's righteous plan. Although it is a simple statement, it cuts to the heart of every true believer who strives to love the Lord. When I respond to a trial with sinful anger, I work against the good that God is trying to accomplish. In verse 19, James exhorts us to hit the breaks on our passions. By developing a discipline of hearing, pondering, and restraining our tongues and tempers, we will prevent hidden idolatries from pouncing forth from our heart, wounding others and undermining God's plans. That isn't the end of James' instruction though. Even though we can develop a discipline of controlling our speech, it does not change our heart, which is what the Lord is really after. Though we may suppress our anger, the fact that we have to exert such effort to restrain ourselves alerts us that an evil passion is lurking in our heart that must be overcome. God's glorious purpose in trials is to root out hidden idolatries within us, replacing it with the peaceable fruit of righteousness. James 1:21 calls us to address the idolatry head on. We must identify the enemy within (the selfish motives that cause us to lash out at others), repent of (put away) our spiritual infidelity, and embrace the living Word which can cleanse our hearts (John 17:17). This is where real change occurs and our attitude towards trials can become one of joy rather than frustration (James 1:2-4). When it comes to sinful anger and strife, we aren't just fighting against others, we are fighting against God. Yet, He is never the enemy of His beloved children. It is only through repentance and reconciliation with God that we will find a balm for our troubled souls. Rather than running from Him, we must run to Him and embrace the soul-penetrating Word with an unselfish spirit. It is His truth that first awakened our hearts, washed us from our sins, and seeded a new love for Him; and it will be His truth that vanquishes our idols, quenches our anger, and renews and deepens our love for Him and others.
James 1:19-21
g Know this, my beloved brothers:
Favored children of God, be aware of this important lesson:
let every person h be quick to hear,
that is , let each one prioritize hearing what others have to say about a matter and gathering all the facts,
i slow to speak,
and slow to form an opinion and utter a judgment,
j slow to anger;
and restrained in allowing your judgment of a situation to stoke fleshly passions which give rise to anger, bitterness, and resentment;
for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
because your wrath (i.e. vengeful human behavior motivated by unfulfilled fleshly desires) will not accomplish God's righteous plan.
Therefore k put away all filthiness
Thus you must turn away from your sinful passions
and rampant wickedness
and unrestrained malice toward your neighbor,
and receive with l meekness the implanted word,
and embrace the soul-penetrating word of God with an unselfish spirit,
m which is able to save your souls.
in order that the truth of the word might rescue your soul (and others) from the damage of sinfully-motivated anger.
An unselfish and patient spirit that embraces God's truth in the midst of adversity will prevent the damage that can be caused by unrestrained fleshly anger.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.