Swift and Slow

8.2.23 Devo Image

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”—James 1:19 (NKJV)

Imagine a world where everyone on the planet subscribed to this teaching? The impact would be astounding. There would be fewer broken hearts, more intimate relationships, and a more connected community. 

James is giving counsel to all believers. Be “swift to hear” is so much more than just listening. The application of this Scripture has layers. Being swift to hear is about having a heart and a hunger to understand and obey God’s Word. Listening to understand empowers us to become action-oriented Christians, which James will address later in this chapter. 

We’re called to be doers of the Word, not just hearers of the Word (James 1:22). God wants us to be swift to hear Him as well as others. This allows us to be teachable. A teachable person keeps a humble heart and views setbacks as an opportunity to learn lessons. When we become doers of God’s Word our relationships greatly improve. 

When we’re swift to hear others, we’re able to keep the mindset that says, “What can I learn from this interaction?” This practice honors the speaker and is at the heart of fruitful communication. Proverbs 18:13 (NIV) teaches us that “to answer before listening—this is folly and shame.”

And what does the Bible say about being “slow to speak”? Proverbs 18:2 (NIV) tells us “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” Wow, leave it to the Book of Proverbs to cut to the chase! Have you ever wished you could literally catch careless words from stumbling out of your mouth or is that just me? Being slow to speak is a learned and practiced skill. Taking the time to understand what has been said instead of jumping to respond may need divine intervention from the Holy Spirit. We should utter, “Close my mouth Lord,” as an internal whisper to the Spirit. Just think of the improved communication we’d have with God and others if we can master this Scripture.

And finally, there’s slow to wrath. Christianity often uses anger and wrath interchangeably, but they’re not the same. Anger is a necessary and proper moral response to injustice. As moral beings, we want and even expect society to be angry with injustice. That’s why we’re drawn to stories where good triumphs over evil. This is what the Bible calls righteous anger. The Lord tells us, “’Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil” (Eph. 4:26–27). 

Sustained human anger motivated by pride can turn to wrath. And that’s where the enemy wreaks havoc in our lives. The wrath of man leads the soul into the depth of bitterness, raging revenge, blinding hatred, and gripping unforgiveness.

It’s amazing how a single verse can be packed with such powerful, practical wisdom! Like so many Scriptures, we can look to it as a blueprint to build deeper intimacy with God and others (James 4:8; Jeremiah 33:3; 1 Peter 4:8; Ephesians 4:29).

Pause: Reflect on your communication with God and others. Do you listen to understand or to respond? Do you seek to learn from your interactions? Do you think before you speak or do you speak too quickly? Have you ever let righteous anger turn to wrath?

Practice: Memorize today’s Scripture by reading it aloud and writing it 4 to 5 times a day for the next two weeks.  

Pray: Dear Lord, I want to be a person who is swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. Only Your Spirit can empower me to live this way. As I practice these principles, please grow my level of intimacy with You and others. Help me to reflect Your character all the days of my life. I love You Lord. Amen.

About the Author

Debra Marsalisi

Deb Marsalisi is an author, public speaker, mentor and Fire Inspector. She began her writing journey to make peace with her challenging past. It has provided her with an outlet for creative self-expression, and a healthy new perspective on life. 

Through God’s amazing grace, she has learned to rejoice in life’s ups and downs, struggles and victories understanding they’ve been given so she can help and inspire others on their own journey of restoration. Her passion is to support others in emotional and spiritual habits that are truly life-changing. She spends her free time loving, encouraging and mentoring young women to grow in their relationship with Jesus. And she also enjoys cooking amazing meals for her friends and family.