19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.
This verse begins with the connective particle “wherefore”, which refers us to James’ discussion in the preceding verse that God begat Christians according to His will by the truth of His Word. All genuine Christians are the children of His family. In this regard, James addressed fellow believers as “my beloved brethren”. Then he exhorted them as to how they should conduct themselves as children of God’s family.
The first conduct of a child of God that James teaches, is that he ought to “be swift to hear”. The primary emphasis of this advice is that every Christian ought to be eager and ready to hear God’s Word. Listening attentively to the instructions of the divine truth, by which every Christian is begotten, is crucial in the life of God’s child. His foremost calling is to be a student, rather than a teacher, of God’s Word. He must be teachable and have a great appetite to feed on God’s truth. A holy curiosity and a receptive spirit are paramount if he is to grow in the knowledge of God.
The second conduct of a child of God that James teaches, is that he ought to be “slow to speak”. This is certainly not an advice to promote some kind of unsociable reserve. There is no virtue in being uncommunicative. We are not forbidden from speaking altogether. We are not taught to abstain from speaking entirely, but to be slow to speak. The admonition is against talkativeness and hastiness to be a teacher. Such restraint in speech has been taught in the wisdom books of the Bible. Proverbs 10:19 reminds us, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Proverbs 17:27 says, “He that hath knowledge spareth his words”. In Ecclesiastes 5:2, we are warned: “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God”.
The third conduct of a child of God that James teaches, is that he ought to be “slow to wrath”. Quick-temperedness and fiery outbursts will lead to many great and heinous offences and sins. So we are to control our temper. Moreover, to be a good learner of God’s Word, one needs to be patient in spirit. Let us not be angry, especially when we are rebuked and corrected by His Word. Proverbs 14:29 reminds us, “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding”. He who is slow to anger shall attain wisdom and honour, but the wrathful man, only foolishness and shame.