TEXT: James 1:19-27
TITLE: “Out of the Mouth…”
THEME: Listen, then speak, from compassionate hearts.
- There have always been people who just say things. Do they even think about what they’re going to say before they speak? – In this day of talk show hosts who go on and on about any subject – of talk shows where people shout over each other, of FB and Twitter posts shared to thousands, even millions, of people at a time – of politicians (from the president on down) who seem to say whatever they think their supporters want to hear … in this day, we need to listen to the words of James and of Mark more than ever.
- We need to practice wise discernment and judgment about who and what we listen to. We also need to discern our own motives and judge our own words all the time – at home, in church, on the job, in school, on FB….wherever! This, according to James, is at the heart of our faith …. Those who do consider themselves religious must keep a tight rein on their tongues – so they do not deceive themselves and so their religion is not worthless. … Pretty strong language!
- Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry – Excellent advice! …. “2 ears, 1 mouth – to listen twice as much as we talk” …. More often than not, it seems, people are quick to speak and slow to listen, if they listen at all. And too often, what we say comes from anger and not love.
- In this context James says …. get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent…. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
- What is immoral and evil? James suggests that angry speech and spoken words which do not come from love are moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent.
- Christians have too often focused on sexual matters when they want to talk about sin. Look at the two most common conservative causes – abortion and homosexuality. Both have to do with sexuality – and when conservative men talk about them, it is women or gay men who are judged as sinful.
- Yet for James, what is said about women and gay men in these contexts … that is the true evil.
- Whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. …. The royal law, according to James, is love. Love gives freedom. If we want to speak freely in any situation, then it must come from love. – Speak the truth in love!
- James gets his “material” from Jesus! – In the Mark passage, Jesus says all these evil things come from the heart …. not just sexual sins, but deceit, greed, envy, slander, pride, and just plain foolishness (what is not wise!). … Then if we compare the parallel passage in Matthew 15, Jesus says clearly that what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this is what defiles us.
- Sometimes we do say things we don’t mean. As soon as the words are out of our mouth, we know that really is not what is truly in our hearts. That happens. … But more commonly, as both Jesus and James say, what we say is what is in our hearts. We speak from the heart – not always from the mind. If we thought about it, we might not say it. But what we want to say is what we truly feel.
- Begin with the heart. – Choose our words carefully is good advice. But if what we really want to say does not come from love – if it would wound someone or damage a reputation or cause division – then our hearts need to change. Not saying it is not enough. Begin with the heart.
- Listen with compassionate hearts. Listen long and deep with love for the other person. – Then we can speak with the same compassion and love. We will find words to express what is in our hearts for them.
- If we are doing that, we must also listen with wise discernment and judgment to what other people say. Hold them accountable – at every level of nation and community – for what they say comes from their hearts as well. …. Let us listen and speak from compassionate hearts and expect other people to do the same!
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.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.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.