Listen Well and Be Active

Lesson 3 James 1:19-27

This week’s lesson is one of the keys to the entire series. Your challenge this week will be to help the class realize the need to put their faith into practice. These verses challenge us directly on this issue, and these verses also give us some very practical ways to do it.


1. James says to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to be angry.” Which is harder for you?

The purpose of this question is to get the class talking and thinking. You can use it as a warm up question.

James begins this verse by saying “Take note of this.” He is calling special attention on this verse because of its importance. “Pay special attention to this,” he is saying. And yet we read it so quickly and move on without really pondering what it would mean in our lives.

Teachings such as these in verse 19 are so simple to read but so hard to put into practice. Why is this? That might be another question you could ask your class.

These 3 teachings are so revealing about us. They say something about our heart. When we fail to listen, we show a lack of love and care for other people. It shows that we are more focused on ourselves. It shows that we don’t feel what others say is very important.

These 3 teachings have great impact on our influence on others. Think of how we influence non-Christians, Christian friends, and especially our biological families when we fail to listen, when we talk without thinking, and when we cannot control our anger.

Other passages to take note of that are similar to verse 19: Proverbs 13:3, 18:13, 29:20. We will be studying the book of Proverbs this summer in our Sunday morning classes.

One scholar has suggested that verse 19 is connected to verses 16-18. He believes that “quick to listen” refers to listening to God. This works for “quick to listen,” but the “slow to speak and slow to become angry” refer to human relationships.

The topic of Christian speech will be discussed again in Chapter 3.

2. How does James 1:19 apply to our church family? To our biological families?

You could combine questions 1 and 2 if you choose. They are closely connected. In this question, you are trying to get your class members to consider how to apply verse 19. I suspect that James’ primary intent is on our church family. He is concerned about how Christian treat one another. But certainly what he says applies in many situations.

You might elaborate on this question by asking about what problems are caused when we don’t do what James says. You could also ask what value there is in listening and being slow to speak.

You might challenge your class to put these three commands on a card this week and carry it around with them as a way of reminding themselves of the need to do what the Bible teaches.

3. Why does anger not bring about a righteous life? Is it always a sin to be angry?

Why is James warning us about anger? It is because it often comes from our pride, our sense of self-importance, our stubbornness, our selfishness, and our intolerance. Anger often really reveals what we are like on the inside. Anger does not come quickly from a person who is joyous, patient, kind, humble, and peace-loving.

Notice that James does not say that we are to completely stifle our anger. Human anger is a normal emotion. Even God gets angry. Jesus got angry. But what you do with your anger is significant. And why you are angry is significant. So our motives and our behavior are key for helping us avoid sin. See also Ephesians 4:26.

You might consider how “slow to become angry” is related to “quick to listen, slow to speak.”

Notice that the bottom line of why we are to be slow to anger is that it is not what God desires. It is not the righteous life God wants. Whether we understand it or not, the test is whether we are willing to obey God.

4. What does James mean by “the word planted in you”?

In James 1:21, he mentions that we should humbly accept the “word planted in you.” More than likely he is referring to the word of God. The idea of it being “planted” implies that it is deeply rooted, not lying on the surface. He is probably thinking of how God’s Spirit is given to us at baptism so that God can teach us and guide us the rest of our lives.

This teaching is similar to the Parable of the Sower and the Seed in Luke 8. The seed is the word of God, and it is planted in 4 different soils with 4 different results, depending on how the seed is received.

James is suggesting that in order to accept God’s word in our lives, we need to do 2 things. First, we need to rid ourselves of what can block or distort God’s word. Second, we need to be humble so that we can receive what God gives us.

5. Why do we need to look “intently into the perfect law”? What does James mean by the “perfect law”?

This question begins our discussion of verses 22-25. It leads us into the next question also.

The perfect law refers to God’s teachings, and to look intently means that we don’t take a quick glance but take a close look and ponder what it means and what we should do. We need to think deeply and then to act accordingly to what God wants us to do.

We do not normally associate “law” with “liberty.” We tend to think of law as restricting us and limiting us. But God’s law is freeing. It is not a law that traps us but liberates us from what binds us to Satan.

The illustration of the man in the mirror is very effective. We are foolish if we look in a mirror and don’t make adjustments based on what we see. Notice the comparison: the foolish man observes, goes away, and forgets. The wise man looks continually, doesn’t forget, and acts. How foolish it is to treats God’s perfect law this way!

There is some similarity here to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:24-27.

6. Why are Sunday School classes potential dangers for Christians? What keeps us from doing what we read in Scripture?

I hope by now you see the connection of this question to the previous one. The purpose of us having classes is not to discuss what the Bible says but to live what the Bible says. It seems that for some, discussing what the Bible says is all that is needed. But when we fail to act, James says that we deceive ourselves (verse 22). So our Sunday school classes (and our sermons, small groups, etc.) can actually be dangerous for us because we pacify our conscience by being in a class. We fail to act on what we know, and there is no blessing in that. In fact, it is dangerous.

What does God want us to do this week based on what we have studied in our class today? That is the question we should ask every Sunday. When we live what we believe is the true measure of whether our classes are effective or not.

7. How do we carry out James 1:27? Why are widows and orphans singled out?

Before we look at verse 27, note that verse 26 is a quick review of the tongue as mentioned in verse 19. It will also be studied again in chapter 3. It is tied to verse 27 in that it mentions the word “religious.” This word is rarely used in the New Testament. It refers to our outward show of piety. It can be a very good thing when combined with the right heart and lifestyle. It can be empty and useless when not. Our religion should be an external manifestation of our heart.

So, in addition to the importance of our speech, James discusses caring for others as a sign of true religion. He also mentions purity. We will focus on caring for others.

God’s care for widows and orphans is clearly taught in the Bible, both in the Old Testament and the New. Here are some sample passages: Deut. 10:17-18, 14:28-29, 24:17-18, Psalm 68:5. The best NT passage to study is probably 1 Tim. 5:3-16, which focuses on how we care for aging parents. Acts 6:1-6 shows how certain widows were being neglected. 1 John 3:17-18 does not focus directly on widows and orphans, but certainly applies. Widows and orphans were in a very vulnerable position in ancient society. They often had to beg for food. Without a family or church to support them, they were the poorest of the poor.

If God has had this much concern for widows and orphans throughout history, certainly He expects us as His people to share that concern and to do something about it.

What more can we do?

Brentwood Hills
Church of Christ
5120 Franklin Road
Nashville, Tennessee 37220
Phone: (615) 832-2541
Fax: (615) 832-2583