James 2023 Bible Study (Authentic: Real Faith When Suffering)

James 1:19-21, Faith When Angry


We are spending this month looking at James’ teachings on how to have authentic faith especially during trying times. James 1 tells us that God is using trials to make us mature and complete so that we lack nothing. Therefore, we must let steadfastness have its full effect. Further, James tells us that we need to pray for wisdom while we are in our trials because God will gives us the wisdom we need generously. James also taught us how to look at temptations. No one should think that God is tempting them or that God is trying to destroy their faith. God is for us, gives us every good and perfect gift, and has given us new birth by the word of truth. Rather, what is separating us from God are the evil desires that are in us. Our desires give birth to sin which leads us to spiritual death. Now James is bringing us to a fourth consideration for our times in trials. Another problem that arises during trials is anger.

James is going to teach us how to deal with our anger. Now I think it is important to point out that anger takes two forms depending on our personality. One way anger is displayed is through an angry outburst. This is seen in yelling, being harsh, slamming or throwing things, or intimidating others. These displays of anger are obvious and clear when we see them. But the other way we show anger is by sulking and quietness. We show our anger by not talking to the person. We show our anger by removing ourselves from their presence with the intention of communicating our anger. We avoid people, give them the cold shoulder, ignore them, do not listen to them, or some other passive aggressive behavior. The base of either of these behaviors is anger. So let’s look at James’ instructions about how to have faith when angry.

Be Quick and Be Slow (1:19)

James first directions are that we would be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. James is teaching us that being a listener moves us in the right direction. We need to ask ourselves a question. Would people say that we are good listeners? Do we really hear what people are saying? It takes humility to want to genuinely listen to what others have to say. We can be too quick to think about what we want to say rather than listening to what someone is saying. In our society there is too much talking and not much listening to each other. One of the ways to deal with anger is to listen to what others are saying. Too often we draw conclusions too quickly when it may be nothing more than a misunderstanding. Controlling anger needs much more listening and much less talking.

But I would also like to take this idea vertically and not only horizontally. We need to be quick to listen to what God is telling us in trials. God is speaking loudly to us in our hardships. James has already told us this at the beginning of the book. God is producing perseverance in us during trials (1:3). God is working to make us mature and complete, lacking nothing. This means when we are in trials that we are lacking something. We need to listen to what God is telling us we lack. Rather than listening to what God is telling us in trials, we can be quick to speak like Job. In trials we are often quick with our rebuttal toward God in trials. Why is this happening to me? This is not fair! Why do I have to go through this? Nothing good can come from this! I don’t understand what God is doing! How many times do we want to argue with God? How many times do we want to argue with his revealed word and will for us?

Job wished he had been slow to speak. Listen to what he says at the end of his experience.

Then Job answered the LORD: I am so insignificant. How can I answer you? I place my hand over my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not reply; twice, but now I can add nothing. (Job 40:3–5 CSB)

Then Job replied to the LORD: I know that you can do anything and no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, “Who is this who conceals my counsel with ignorance?” Surely I spoke about things I did not understand, things too wondrous for me to know. You said, “Listen now, and I will speak. When I question you, you will inform me.” I had heard reports about you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I reject my words and am sorry for them; I am dust and ashes. (Job 42:1–6 CSB)

In both cases Job expresses his sorrow and repentance for being quick to speak. Job learned to place his hand over his mouth. Job realizes he spoke about things he did not understand. Job repented of what he had said about God. Our words need to be asking for wisdom, not words of complaining or challenging the wisdom of God in the trial.

Slow to Anger (1:19-20)

Now James goes further in explaining why these steps are so important. Be quick to listen. Be slow to speak. Be slow to anger. Why? Human anger does not produce the righteousness that God wants. To say this another way, anger is the destroyer of our souls. Anger is not taking us in the right direction but the wrong direction. I want us to think about the scriptures for a minute. Where do the scriptures describe his people as angry Christians? Where do we see Jesus telling us to be angry disciples? Anger does not produce the righteousness of God. Far too often we can think that we have a right to be angry with God. But do we really think this is a good idea? Do we really want to be angry at God? Being angry at God means we think he has wronged us. We are telling him that he is not acting right toward us. Our anger is based on selfishness and is not producing godly righteousness. Listen to how James mirrors the wise words of the Proverbs.

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise person holds it in check. (Proverbs 29:11 CSB)

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. (Proverbs 14:29 ESV)

Wisdom is found in listening, not in anger. Anger is not wisdom. Anger is not righteous. Anger is not bringing us closer to God. Anger usually is thinking about self and does not think about others. We need to let James’ words hit us the next time we are angry. The righteousness God desires is not being produced in me. Anger is not producing behavior that is pleasing to God. Anger is not our spiritual friend. Anger fights against righteousness. Goodness, holiness, and righteousness is not coming from your anger.

Solving Anger Problems (1:21)

But James does not end the paragraph by telling us to just be slow to anger or to just stop being angry. James is going to get underneath this problem so that we can pull this sin out by the roots. We talked about this last week and I want us to see that it comes up again. Our temptations to sin point to a bigger problem. Our temptations reveal the desires in our hearts. Sins are symptoms of the problem. This is what we learned in the last lesson. Evil desires are the problem that need to crucified and transformed. Sins are the actions that come from the desires. Anger is the symptom of the problem. Sexual immorality is the symptom of the problem. Sins are symptoms of the problem. The problem is in the heart. We will see Jesus teach this truth as well in Matthew 15 in our Sunday morning series in just a couple weeks. So James is going to help us attack the anger problem. Here are the two things he says to do in James 1:21.

First, get rid of all moral filth and prevalent evil. Are you surprised by this first step? Notice that he did not say that the solution to our anger problem is to surround ourselves with people who do not make us angry. He does not say that the solution to our anger problem is to do what you want spiritually and then you won’t be angry at God anymore. The solution is to get rid of moral filth and the abundance of evil in our lives. Anger tells that there is still moral filth in our hearts. All sins that we commit tell us that. Instead of thinking that our anger is acceptable, we need to put off the moral filth that remains in us. Solving our anger problem is not by addressing external things that get us mad. Solving our anger problem means looking inside and figuring out why we are such angry people.

Now we need a warning. We will be tempted to think that we are not angry people. So we need to ask others if we. Ask your children. Ask your friends. Ask your spouse. Be sure to ask and give them the authority to have them tell you truth. If they have experienced your anger, they won’t want to tell you the truth because they are afraid of what you will do to them. Accept that we have an anger problem and look for the moral filth that we have in us that needs to be put away.

Second, look at the rest of verse 21. Humbly receive the implanted word which is able to save you. Anger shows that we are not humbly receiving God’s word deep into our hearts. The implanted word reminds us of the parable of the sower. We must let God’s word sink into our hearts. We need humility for this process to work or else we will simply reject what God’s word says to us. God’s word is telling us that our anger is wrong. God’s word is telling us that there is moral filth in our lives and that is why we are not slow to anger. So we need to let the word of God plant roots in our lives so that our angry hearts can be transformed. The seed is in the soil but we cannot be preventing the seed from working and growing because of the moral filth we are involved in. The word of God needs to be allowed to completely influence our lives. The solution to anger is letting the word transform you.

I look at myself and I think my earlier years were filled with a strong anger problem. I think I probably just had a tendency toward it that needed to be worked on and changed. People in my life told me to look at that problem and I could see it, not only from their input, but from seeing what God’s word said. I could have excused myself. I grew up in an angry household. I do not think I grew up in an environment where I saw proper and godly conflict resolution. All I can remember from my childhood is the process of parents divorcing and all the anger and trauma that was going in the house at that time. Then I saw the interactions of divorced parents which also was not godly or right. So it is easy to blame others and blame our environments. But at the end of the day we have to take charge of our character, stop making excuses, and receive the word of God in our hearts.

I want us to see the importance of doing this as seen at the end of verse 21. The word implanted in your heart is what will save you. The word implanted in your heart is what is going to end moral filth. The word implanted in your heart is what will transform you from the person you do not want to be to the person God wants you to be. We are not doomed to our upbringing. We are not doomed to our environment.  We are not doomed to our character flaws. The power of God’s word implanted in your heart can radically changed who you are and overcome every obstacle and barrier you have experienced. God is using trials to make us mature and complete, lacking nothing (1:4).

So be quick to listen to others. Be quick to listen to God and his correction and instructions. Be slow to speak to others. Be slow to speak toward God. Be slow to anger because anger is counterproductive. Anger is not producing the righteousness God wants. Get rid of moral filth and let the word of God plant deep roots in your hearts. Let God work on you and change you into the person you want to be and the person he wants you to be.

Share on Facebook
Scroll to Top