Angry Talk (James 1:19-21)

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19–20, AV)

Years ago, when I was managing a printing plant in Savannah Georgia, one time I had an issue with the work performed by the third shift, (11PM-7AM). At 7:00AM I inspected the print samples the operator pulled from end of each rolls of paper he printed and discovered that the color of the samples did not match the customer’s standards. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that the operator of the printing press did not properly check the printed color on each roll and let the color drift off standard, a big problem.

The operator tried tell me that he did check every roll, but I would not listen to it. I tried to keep my composure, but my emotion was quite evident. This was because we were looking at a loss for that day of some $15,000 or so due to lost press time and wasted product. So, he left and went home dejected and wounded by my response.

After he left, I continued to work with the first shift in getting the color matched correctly. After finally approving a sheet, I went to my office. Later, I went back out to view the samples taken by the first shift operator. Again, the color of the samples did not meet the standard. When I looked at the sheet that I had personally approved, I was shocked to see that it did not match the customer’s standard either. Further investigation revealed that the printed color on the finished product was gradually changing on its own for about an hour or so after it was printed.

I discovered that the third shift operator was right. He did check the color on every roll of paper printed. The problem was not with him, but the ink. Then I felt sick about how I had treated the third shift operator and needed to apologize to him personally when he came in that evening. The problem was that I was too quick to speak and not quick to hear. I should have listened to the operator.

Too often, we speak first and then think later. “Before you speak, think.” The problem to which James writes here has to do with this specific issue. Often, we react emotionally without all the facts. This often boils over into unwarranted anger towards something or someone. James tells us that the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. When you consider that we are to be a walking testimony of God’s grace, there is no room for the anger of man.

There is a huge difference between the righteous anger of God and the anger of man. God’s anger is always based upon His infinitely perfect character. He is perfectly just, righteous, good and merciful. We are not. We will always struggle with anger because the anger of man is driven by our emotions. We cannot let our emotions control us, we must learn to live under the control of the Holy Spirit. (More on this in the next devotional.)

So, how should we respond to the negative situations of life with our speech? I came across this acrostic on that I thought might be helpful. “Before you speak, THINK.” Ask yourself these questions. T – Is it true? H – Is it helpful? I – Is it inspiring? N – Is it necessary? K – Is it kind? Remember the words Paul wrote to the Ephesians. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, NASB).

Published by Steve Hankins, Th.D.

Steve has had extensive military, business and ministry experience. He has served for over 16 years in full time vocational ministry and many years of part time ministry in churches. He has led churches through start-up and recasting of vision. Now He resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he is working to help smaller churches and believers to renew their hearts and regain the joy of the Lord.

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