Effective communication is the key to building interpersonal relationships, imparting the Gospel, and transmitting knowledge from one to another. So, it’s no surprise the Bible contains a wealth of information on the importance of communication.
James, in his epistle to the church, deals extensively with the subject of communication. In fact, he touches on the subject of speech in all five chapters of the book. And, in James 1:10, he offers succinct instructions that remain applicable to everyone, regardless of the situation.
He starts with the imperative, “Be swift to hear.” In today’s fast-paced world, the art of listening is often lost. To truly listen is to enter the conversation fully engaged. It requires the listener to reject the notion that silence and an occasional nod of the head are sufficient. To listen is to remain aware and responsive to verbal and non-verbal cues (mannerisms, emotions, voice inflection, facial expressions, etc.).
Next, he instructs the reader to be “slow to speak.” The temptation is to rush headlong to a conclusion. Human nature demands problems are fixed, words of wisdom shared, and platitudes dispensed. But real communication requires submission to Godly wisdom. It often demands a pause and a prayer, before words are offered.
Finally, James insists the Christian must be “slow to wrath.” Words spoken in the heat of the moment are ineffective and are responsible for incalculable damage. There is never justification for words fueled by wrath. Words, once loosed, can’t be recalled. The injured may forgive the offender, but forgiveness doesn’t instantaneously remove the effect of the words on the heart and soul. Therefore, it is imperative the Christian learn self-control in communication.
In summary, James’ words compel the readers to temper their speech, communicate effectively and respond with empathy. In one simple verse, the writer presents an excellent pattern for prayer. May every Christian seek God’s help and “be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”