My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. James 1:19-20
James here is echoing the words of Solomon in Proverbs about controlling the tongue to avoid outbursts of anger. There are two in particular that we are going to look at and they Proverbs 10:19 and Proverbs 17:27-28.
Proverbs 10:19 says this: “When there are many words sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is prudent”. What is Solomon trying to tell us here? Is he trying to tell us to not talk a lot? No that is not what he is telling us at all. But what he is telling us is that those who have evil or wicked desires will “talk a good game”, because they are going to come at with all these words and phrases that may sound good but in reality they are only meant to confuse you and lead down the wrong path. The content of the speech of a person with evil desires is what matters. And if you pay attention and listen to what they actually saying, then you will hear the lies and the untruths that they speaking, and you will be able to avoid falling into the trap that they are trying to lead you into.
Proverbs 17:27-28 says this: “The one who has knowledge restrains his words, and the one who keeps a cool head is a person of understanding. Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent – discerning, when he seals his lips.” Solomon here is mixing together both Egyptian and Israelite wisdom. Both of which viewed the ideal personality type as being cool or dispassionate. Jesus was the ultimate explain of restraint (Isaiah 53:7 and Mark 14:61). Solomon is using an implied a fortiori argument (or a conclusion for which there is stronger evidence than the previously accepted one) by saying: if “even a fool is considered wise when silent”, then how much more will an intelligent person be respected for restraint. He then goes on to say that “a fool” will not only be considered wise but he will be considered “discerning, when he seals his lips.” What does Solomon mean when he writes “discerning”? This is what he means: a discerning person has the capacity to understand what he hears and sees and to internalize knowledge so that it directs his actions.
What that means is that James and Solomon are telling us the exact same thing. They are telling us that when we don’t react in anger and hostility with words that are designed to hurt and to speak death not life over a person, then we are making ourselves out to be fools, who are unable to understand what we are seeing and what we are hearing, who can’t internalize the knowledge that we are being presented because we have so blinded ourselves with our unrighteous and un-Godly anger that we can’t see that we are causing more harm than good to ourselves and to those around. We have to learn to control our tongues and our anger, by hearing and heeding these words that James wrote over a thousand years ago:
Not many should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we will receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is mature, able also to control the whole body. Now if we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we direct their whole bodies. And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how a small fire sets ablaze a large forest. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among our members. It stains the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. Every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish is tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way. Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers and sisters, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water. James 3:1-12