Tonight in church we thought about anger. James’ readers were angry at something (Jas. 1:19-21). Perhaps they had been tempted to become angry with God at their circumstances or maybe they were expressing words of anger to one another, engaging in a form of blame for the problems that they faced. They could also have been angry with their opponents who were causing such trouble and making their lives so hard.
Sometimes we come across common behaviours that we sense are inappropriate. One of them is anger in expressing the word of God. Of course, there is righteous anger, but Christians can respond angrily and not be righteous.
Whatever the reason, James as a pastor had to deal with a situation in which anger was showing itself and therefore he wanted to warn his readers about the dangers they faced from it and to remind them of the God-given remedy. Their outlook of anger had arisen because they had not listened to what the Word of God had said to them about suffering for the faith.
James mentions two practical ways that revealed anger. The first was that some people refused to listen, which raises the question, ‘Who were they refusing to listen to?’ James could be referring to reading the word of God (the Old Testament, which would have been all that was available of the Scriptures at that time) or listening to an address based on the word of God. For the purpose of James’ argument, there is little difference between the two options. Their anger revealed that they had rejected truth, and because they had not listened, they now did not know what to say.
The remedy for James is connected to the implanted word. When did this implanting take place in their lives? It happened at conversion. One way of looking at it is to consider the details of the new covenant that God makes with his people. In that covenant, part of the terms is that he will write his laws on their minds and hearts..
But how are we to receive the word of God? James tells us that there is only one way and that is meekly. A meek person is gentle and under control, and humble as well. Such an individual will behave submissively because the word implanted continues to deliver him from sin, including that of anger. Sanctification is evidence that our souls are being saved, and the presence of anger is a pointer to something having gone wrong in sanctification. An angry man is not being sanctified, even if he is hot-headed in behalf of the truth.
The word in our heart is the primary means of dealing with the indwelling sin of anger, along with prayer and refusal to engage in the sin. When James says that the word is able, he means that it can do it because it tells us to confess the sin of anger, to cast it away and to develop meekness instead.