Know this, my beloved brothers: let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger...
This is where James starts in. We've seen the return to Eden. We know where this is going. We're learning how to be the firstfruits of God's creatures.
This passage (ch. 1, vv. 19-27) was really hard for me to put together at first. But then I made the connection. He refers to each of these three areas (hear, speak, anger) but in a strange order. To be honest, I don't know what the reason is. Maybe we'll find out later. Anyway, he first discusses anger, then hearing, and then speaking.
...for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. Therefore, put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your soul.
Okay. So anger isn't helpful in learning to be the firstfruits of God's creatures. Specifically, it doesn't help produce dikaiosune. Dallas Willard describes this "righteousness" as "true inner goodness." God wants this goodness for us. And anger doesn't help us get there. So James makes a suggestion: do away with anger. But not just anger: all the wickedness and filth that goes along with it. And as you remove that... stuff, receive the word. Logos.
But he calls it the implanted word. Implanted? As if it belonged to someone else and it was given to us in order to save us? Sure enough - to save our soul. This word can save us. This truth can save us. And the Greek suggests that it will in fact save us from our sin. Another important observation is that if the word is implanted, that means that we didn't have it before. In other words, someone gave us this truth so that we may live. Powerful stuff. Anger moves us away from that life. Slow to anger is the key.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Off to hearing. Quick to hearing is the advice James gives us. Why? Well, the key is more than just hearing. You guessed it: doing. But obviously, you have to hear before you can ever do. Luckily, these verses are straightforward. It's stupid to listen and not do. So do truth. Hear it. Learn it. Do it. You'll be blessed.
By the way, law of liberty? Gotta love that phrase! So perfect. The truth was implanted so we can live. The law was given so we can have liberty.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.
Slow to speak. The last part James goes into.
The word for religious (threskos) has one and only one appearance in the entire Bible: here. That's not the point. It's just interesting.
The point is this. James is telling his audience: you want good, outward, ceremonial, religious appearance, watch your tongue. Think about what you say.
James adds one last bit on this "religious" topic. And it may or may not come up again. But it closes up chapter one, and I think it's just an interesting statement to conclude with.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
I don't think James is telling his audience that they should do this. I actually think it is closer to being advice for the Pharisees who were all about appearances. Interesting. I like James more and more each verse.