Both Hearing and Doing

from the James reading plan

James 1:19-27, Proverbs 10:19, Ephesians 4:26-27, Romans 5:20

I have a quick temper. Just ask my family. In an attempt to be repentant and Christlike, I typically have to take a few moments to gather myself when my wife frustrates me or my kids disobey. Sometimes I’m silent. Sometimes I have to leave the room and come back. If I’m not careful, I can be like a tea kettle with steam billowing out of my ears, my only way to cool off being an ice-water bath from the Holy Spirit.

I know I should be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19), but I don’t always do it. That’s because, ultimately, my mind doesn’t always connect to my heart. As James tells us in this passage, we can’t merely hear God’s Word—we have to act on it.

Belief is an interesting thing. Everyone believes in something, right? Not just normal beliefs, like “the grass is green” or “the sky is blue.” Everyone believes in deeper truths, like goodness and beauty and love and purpose. I believe it’s right to control my temper, yet often I act out anyway.

As Christians, our beliefs go even further. We confess and believe certain things about God and about how the universe does (or doesn’t) work. In other words, we don’t believe in a generic, watered-down God. The commands of Scripture and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are unique signposts for Christian living. They are how we move from a general morality to Christlikeness. They are how we are kept “unstained from the world” (James 1:27).

We do what we believe. According to Paul in Romans 10:9, what we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts is a matter of salvation, of eternity. James says elsewhere that even the demons believe (2:19)! And yet the demons are anything but godly. They are the embodiment of evil.

This command—“be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger”—is a perfect example of the difference between a hearer and a doer of the Word. We can believe one thing with our minds, but “the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Matthew 12:34). Our ability to heed these words in James 1:19 reveals much about the state of our hearts.

Trust me, I should know.

Written by Brandon D. Smith

Post Comments (21)

21 thoughts on "Both Hearing and Doing"

  1. Bernie Connelly says:

    If there is a place I always need the Holy Spirit it is here. I know that there are times I do not listen. Especially when I am talking to my wife Lisa. I cut her off and do not give her the ability to finish what she is saying. And it does not even take words. So I can say I’m listening but my body language and facial expressions give me away that I am not hearing her. I can see this in my relationship with Christ also.

  2. Ken Fuller says:

    I know that there are people who believe the Bible is man’s telling of his experience with God. They believe in it’s “inspiration” as a pinnacle of one’s personal best but not that each word (or jot and tittle, as the KJV quoted Jesus) is a product of the Holy Spirit breathing God’s message on to the pages. However, that is what I believe. When you look critically at each book, you might believe the first thought. But when you read and study the whole Bible, it’s hard not to miss the direction of a Supreme Author.

    “The commands of Scripture and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are unique signposts for Christian living. They are how we move from a general morality to Christlikeness. They are how we are kept “unstained from the world” (James 1:27).”

    “Christlikeness”, when you see mankind as sin-laden, is impossible to come by through an act of our will. There must be a supernatural transformation in us that can only come through a “baptism” into the Word and the Spirit’s regeneration.

    I want to be like my Lord and Savior!

  3. Mick says:

    One thing this message seems to assume is that we are regularly being hearers (readers) of the world. How can we be doers if we are not regularly being a hearer?
    That’s just the start. Unfortunately, too often that’s all the further I get. I need to be more intentional about spending daily time with God so that I can actually DO his will and not my own.

  4. Sean says:

    The hardest thing for me is the transition from being a hearer of the word to being a doer also. I feel like I know the word of God in part, but the deep penetrating truths are not taking root in the hard soil of my soul.
    I am currently 8,000 miles from my faith community and losing the routine of Christian community is a deal harder than I anticipated. It is easy to stay hot when one is near a fire. Now we must be the fire. How does the deep abiding love of Jesus change my heart and move me to do this? I need the presence of the Holy Spirit and discipline to seek him

  5. Doug says:

    My worst offense with this is social media. In person I don’t blow up but on social media I do. It is safe. But I have noticed I offend people there but the realization is so far after I think I have alienated friends and family I would not have otherwise. Lord please help me to rise above that need to vent uncontrollably and instead turn to you in prayer. I need you more than I need social media. It gives me a brief calm having vented but the toxic long effects are a hangover. Help me rise above. Amen

  6. Andrew Flack says:

    This is a big thing for me. It’s totally a Sunday school point. And it’s interesting how James even kinda states that at the beginning by saying “you know that it has been said”. But he makes such a good point with how it really isn’t easy. There’s been multiple times in my life where I’ve tried and tried and just couldn’t get myself to calm down before the devil took control. And then it moves on to say “don’t just hear the word but live it” this is what really hit me. I’ll have multiple times (even in the course of this study and it’s only day 2) where I’ll totally just screw up and I’ll know what I’m supposed to do. But I’ll mess up and just try to block it out and ignore it. And that’s not the way to live. I’m honestly incredibly grateful for today’s devo. Cause without it I would’ve continued to fall in the same trap and wouldn’t have been able to get out.

  7. Alex says:

    It’s easy for us to hear something from God’s word, to hear how we should act or live, or how God wants us to be. In the moment we accept that, we agree but we often only listen with our ears and not with our hearts.

    In that moment of hearing it, we agree wholeheartedly, of course we do… it’s God’s word! But when it comes to a week, a day, even an hour later, our actions can show that we haven’t really taken it into our hearts.

    In this passage we’re called to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. We all agree with that principle and agree it is best, but we very rarely live it out. We’ve only listened with our ears, not with our hearts and so it doesn’t manifest itself in how we live.
    James is radical in how he describes this; He tells us not to deceive ourselves, but to act on what we learn and thus be blessed.

    James also raises a very powerful statement in verse 21:
    “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

    He’s got it exactly right. Evil and moral filth are so obvious in the world around us today, but also just as obvious in our own lives. So, what is the solution?
    Get rid of it, and (here’s the important part of how we do that) accept the word planted in us, take it to heart, and that is what can save you.

  8. Enjuju says:

    I get angry at my fiancé sometimes too quickly. It is in moments like that when I need extra grace from the HS.
    Many times it is too easy not to control the tongue. Indeed from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

  9. Isaiah says:

    I’m really praying for the ability to do and not just hear. I want to be slow to speak, quick to listen, and quick to become angry. I want to live that out. That can only happen by the strength of God, his everlasting, abundant grace, and the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit. This however, requires us to trust in these things and lean into them and their mighty wonder. To live out the word, as we are called to do, means we need to remember the word and trust in the strength and guidance-of which is never our own-to do so. While God never leaves nor forsakes me in my struggles and trials, He is also still constantly there to help me live out His word. We do not deserve a God who calls us to live out His word and will for our good, wants to help us do so, and shares an everlasting Grace when we mess up. Praise God!!

  10. Aaron says:

    Especially in the midst of trials when others are watching your actions is it of utmost importance to listen well and respond well when the moment calls for it.

  11. Kevin says:

    We can’t just read the Bible and expect things to come out of it. Doing puts it into practice. Just like school, we don’t just show up to a test without putting effort into studying because we know the outcome is far greater when you work hard, than when you slack off. God loves and appreciates hard work, so we should do that in everything we do.

  12. Jaxn Engstrom says:

    In many situations I do not find myself turning towards anger. It tends to take a lot for me to actually be angry at someone or something. One thing I have found is that I tend to be quick to speak and slow to hear. I am glad to be aware of this so that I may begin to change but I still have some work to do.
    I do like to think about these passages as the way a ‘Christlike’ person would act and that keeps me striving to be better and work on these things.

  13. Jared says:

    Talk about hitting me at a time when I need this the most. I have been struggling with the frustrations of a broken marriage and a lot of resentment. Working through the infidelity of my wife has been the hardest task to date in my 31 years of life. But I rest in the Lord. I pray that I am slow to anger and that I rest upon the mercies of Christ Jesus. I am small but he is not and he can fix my heart. Say a prayer for a man who is seeking his Fathers love and searches for the ability to truly forgive and continually love as he does for me.

  14. Clay says:

    I’ve found myself over the last five years becoming more complacent with my spiritual life and the “doing” part of the gospel, instead choosing to tell myself that I am simply too busy to be giving anyone the time of day and showing them the love that Christ would. The more I dig down into this, the more I realize it is half in the name of comfort and my spiritual life has suffered because of it.

  15. Jason Verdin says:

    I know I should be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19), but I don’t always do it. That’s because, ultimately, my mind doesn’t always connect to my heart. As James tells us in this passage, we can’t merely hear God’s Word—we have to act on it.

    How much of gods word do I respond to? Should I be more active in doing and standing up for and supporting those who who are oppressed?

  16. Dalen Hanquist says:

    I can so relate to this devotional. I love the verse “the mouth speaks the overflow of the heart”. So when we fill our hearts with hate and anger we are only speaking that too. Taking time to read the Bible and praying over it, AND THEN practicing it in our life everyday will fill our hearts with life, which we speak. I believe that a true believer in Jesus practices what he learns from Jesus ALL THE TIME

  17. Nico says:

    I’m someone who does things out of anger a lot. I don’t give time to think, I naturally respond on emotions and I know that gets the best of me. Also I’m leading bible studies and recently confessed to the people I’m leading is that I’m a hypocrite. I’m telling you how to love and not living the life style I’m telling you. That what I’m doing is meanlinless. I need to be aware of my actions and actually do what I’m telling my friends / brothers how to live

  18. Ben Witt says:

    I have had anger issues my whole life. I have recently been doing a study of James through “He Reads Truth” and on my own as well, it has been amazing reading on what a Christlike man should be. It has helped me and I have noticed that I am harder to anger now, still not exactly where I want to be, but I strive to be more like Christ everyday.

  19. Ryan Kirby says:

    I too have had trouble with my temper and also my walking with Christ over the past couple of years. I’ve had to learn how to dial back my anger and pray when things get a little bumpy. This has helped not only with my relationships and transition, but also with my faith. I had to learn how to not let anger get the best of me and simply pray to God for peace, patience, and understanding. The other big takeaway for me from this study is how we should not only be thinkers, but doers, as far as our relationship with God goes. As scripture says a man who thinks but does not do is like that of a man who looks at himself in the mirror and then completely forgets who he is, or what he looks like. I struggle with this as a Christian, because even though I strive to talk the talk and walk the walk, it doesn’t always play out that way. I’ve had moments where my actions did not resemble that of Christ, or his commandments. My goal is to continue to learn from those mistakes and to always be the DOER not just the thinker, for I want to be a man who reads Gods word and then puts it into action, not a man who just shrugs it off and forgets my natural face, or Heavenly Father.
    God I pray for patience, peace, and understanding. I pray that I am quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. I pray for wisdom when I’m angered, and for integrity to do the right thing. I pray for strength to always uphold the word in my household and to strive to be a shining example of your love, and grace. I love you father God, and I love your son, Jesus Christ, for his blood is our salvation, Amen.

  20. Stewart Conkle says:

    This is a daily struggle in a way. Anytime I want to speak out, I feel like the Holy Spirit is sitting off to my side and clearing his throat, “Ahem”.

    Calmness in times of chaos is a God given ability. Let God handle this. Watch and see.

  21. JeffJupp says:

    Be slow to speak.. wow I needed this today!
    God give me the strength to forgive those around me and give me the peace to react in love. God I pray that you’d just give me an overwhelming peace from you and keep me steady on you and your word I know you give us trials so that you can test our faith and God I’m here depending on you and asking you for help.
    God I’d pray that you help my mom to forgive herself and to rely on you and to get some of her priorities straight and for her to stay fixed on you and you alone and all the rest of the pieces will fall into place.
    I pray that you’d help Ally’s parents get citizenship and give their marriage strength to survive and help them to figure out their finances.
    GOD i pray that you’d be over Heather and protect her and her kids and give her peace and love and bring back her joy to her God I pray that she’ll love you even more than she already does and for her kids to follow you and trust in you.
    Pray that you’d help Jenifer to trust in you and only you and to rely solely upon you
    For John give him peace and show him your overwhelming love, he’s doing your work God show him you are taking care of him over and above what he needs and wants
    Pray for Robert to look to you and to depend upon you I give you full control of Robert and I pray that you’d keep him safe and bring him back to you and put someone into his life to show him that.
    Thank you for your love that you show us daily I love you and in your name I say Amen!

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