“Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” (James 1:17 – 18)
Often when I sit down to write, there will be a word or phrase that will catch me attention and become my focus. This often a good thing because it gives me the impetus to write. “First fruits” can mean that which is the best or exemplifies the whole. But sometimes it simply means that which came first. I was expecting that the writer of the book of James might have meant the former; but after consulting the biblical commentators, I saw that it meant the later – those who first came to believe after the apostles who were the carriers of the message. And in response to the gift and blessing from the Divine, the writer of the book of James assumes that his listeners will respond and will respond quickly so their devotion is seen prominently and promptly.
“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” (Verses 19 – 20)
Quick to listen , but slow to speak. And even slower to anger. I am learning about anger – my anger. What I am learning, beloved reader, is that I get angry when it is hard for me to breath. Calm is hard to achieve and maintain when you are struggling to breath. So I check in with myself, when I am feeling angry. Is it righteous anger that signifies that a change is needed? Or is it anger that is fueled, or more accurately raised up, by a lack of oxygen in my lungs and coursing through my body? I need to be quick to listen to my body then; slow to speak because I may not have the breath strength. Then I need to let go off the anger and tend to my self care.
“Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.” (Verses 21 – 24)
The writer of the book of James does not give space or consideration the righteous anger. In fact this passage that he wrote dissuades one from anger. Instead he invites and encourages his reader to respond with meekness; meaning, I assume, accepting the gospel and good news. Living their lives in response to the guidance and instruction that gave from the apostles who learned it from Jesus.
“But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act–they will be blessed in their doing. If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (25 – 27)
Though he not mention it, righteous anger exists and is used to advance the cause of orphans and widows. To not only heal their wounds and distress but to protect them from those who would see them marginalized, swept aside. It is for such as those that Jesus had righteous anger, to protect them and deliver them. For the perfect law is the law of compassion, and it liberates those who are opposed.
May you, beloved reader, find the balance of listening and doing; of knowing what should be done and have the perseverance to see it through. Shalom & Selah!