James 1:19-21 – The Gospel of Bob and Fred…

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” – James 1:19-21

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha

“One-half of the ills of life come because men are unwilling to sit down quietly for thirty minutes to think through all the possible consequences of their acts.” – Blaise Pascal

“When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear.” – Mark Twain

As the saying goes, “God gave you two ears and one mouth because you are supposed to listen twice as much as you speak.”  These three verses, probably more than anything I’ve ever read, ring true and frustrate me at the same time.  The default of my heart is anger.  But when I sit down and really look at it, what is that anger?  It is nothing more, and nothing less than my inflamed ego.  There is a time and a place for righteous anger.  There is a time when the only correct course of action is to pick up a cat-of-nine-tails and start turning over tables.  But 99.999% of the time our anger is nothing like righteous anger.  We get angry because so-and-so gets such-and-such and they don’t deserve it.  We get angry because someone says something out of the way to us, or about us and got away with it.  We get angry because we didn’t get our way.  In other words, we get angry because we are jealous.  We get jealous because of our pride.  And our pride is the basis of every other sin that we might commit.

Robert Anton Wilson said, “Most people live in a myth and grow violently angry if anyone dares tell them the truth about themselves.”  This is what we need to understand.  James tells us that our anger stands in the way of the righteousness that God has for us.  Our anger keeps us from, as Bob Wilson so aptly pointed out, hearing the truth about ourselves.  More often than not, our anger flares up in the presence of anything that tries to pull off our mask and expose the self we want so desperately to hide.

There is an interesting thing that James adds at the end of these verses.  After telling us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, he tells us to get rid of moral filth that is so prevalent.  This idea is a “therefore” to the idea of being slow to anger, etc.  In other words, he is telling us that the way we can accomplish the first part, is in doing the second.  We are to get rid of moral filth in our lives, be humble in accepting the Word of God, and this will be the way that we are able to do the first part.  You want to know how to tell when a person knows what they are doing is wrong?  Watch for the things that make them angry.  Tell an alcoholic that they need to watch their drinking.  Tell a legalist that they need to be more loving.  Tell a “free-spirit” that they need some boundaries.  You will find out pretty quickly when a person isn’t so sure that what they are doing is right.

I’ll take it one step further.  In general, the thing that a person thinks is “the worst” sin, is the thing that that person struggles with the most.  And it comes back, once again, to the pride of Lucifer that we all share.  A person who thinks that being a drunk is the worst thing you can do is typically someone who has fought very hard to overcome drunkenness.  That person is then putting their pride in their ability to stop drinking, and thinks “I did it, why can’t you?”  A person who struggles with lust may think that infidelity is the worst thing you can do.  A person who struggles with anger may think that violence is the worst thing to do.  The list could go on forever.  The point is that James’ advice here is twofold.  We are to get rid of our moral filth.  That’s the part that our friends I’ve listed above have done.  But the second part is that we are then to “humbly” accept the Word of God which can save us.  And there is the kicker.  Once we realize that any ability that we have to overcome this moral filth does not come from us, but from God’s Word planted in us, then we see things in a new light.  When we realize that we, like these poor saps we are so angry with, are completely helpless to do anything about our sinful selves, then we become a lot more eager to forgive them.  When we realize that we are no better than they are, then we give them the benefit of the doubt.  Jesus puts it in positive terms when He tells us to love our neighbor as our self.

One of the most devastating, and humbling experiences that a person can have is to realize that you are exactly the thing that makes you the most angry.  It is so easy for us to look at the Swaggarts and Bakkers of the world and say, “you fought so hard against this thing in public, but look at your private life.”  But if we are honest with ourselves, we are absolutely no different.  Robert Anton Wilson again stumbled on something close to the truth when he said, “You are precicely as big as what you love and precicly as small as what you allow to annoy you.”  The downfall of these men, and the downfall of us all comes when we try to correct our own actions by just trying harder.  We think there must be some program, some method, some path that we can, on our own efforts, do to overcome.  But the fact is that we are totally and completely ill equiped to do this on our own.

In the end, like every other issue, it comes back to the two things that Jesus Himself told us to do.  This “word planted in you” that James refers to is that of Jesus, The Word Himself.  We are told to love God with all that we have and all that we are.  And we are told to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  This means that we humbly listen to what God tells us.  And what God tells us is that we need His help.  It also means that we are to love our neighbors by giving them the same forgiveness and the same benefit of the doubt that we give ourselves.  Even when we beat up on ourselves, and wallow in our “wrongness,”  we are really doing so out of some sense of pride in our ability to admit that we are so wrong.

The beauty and the freedom of the Gospel is that we don’t have to change other people.  When Jesus told Peter vaguely how he would die, Peter’s first response was, “What about John.”  Jesus, in the Grace and Truth way that only He could pull off said simply, “What is that to you?  You must follow me.”  Let that play in your mind the next time you are angry.  The next time you think, “So-and-so just said blah-blah-blah to me!”  Think, “what is that to me?  I must follow Jesus.”  The next time you wonder, “why did so-and-so get away with doing whatever-it-is?”  Remember, “What is that to me?  I must follow Jesus.”  And the next time you are faced with the choice to do the whatever-it-is that tempts you.  Remember, “What is that to me?  I must follow Jesus.”

“How sad it is that we give up on people who are just like us.” – Fred Rogers

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About Andrew

The Universe is Round. View all posts by Andrew

6 responses to “James 1:19-21 – The Gospel of Bob and Fred…

  • cheritycall

    hy, Do something for help those hungry people in Africa and India,
    I added this blog about that subject:
    at http://tinyurl.com/5t2jg6

  • Romanos

    “You want to know how to tell when a person knows what they are doing is wrong? Watch for the things that make them angry. Tell an alcoholic that they need to watch their drinking. Tell a legalist that they need to be more loving. Tell a “free-spirit” that they need some boundaries. You will find out pretty quickly when a person isn’t so sure that what they are doing is right.”

    This is very true. It was true when I was 24 and it still is true, to my mind at least, at age 57. It seems to be a generalisation or over-simplification, but it is not. I am fairly certain, from my experience with others and my self-inspection, that it is reliable.

    On the other hand, something you wrote, though I have heard it from many people, both young and old chronologically, I think is less reliable, and in the only case I know very, very well, it is simply not true: that we usually get angry about the most is what we struggle against in ourselves the most. This argument has been used by many a conscious and unconscious manipulator of men to get them to do what was desired. I have heard it from wife, from friends, from politicians and from priests, applied to me personally and applied to a specific group of people and to folks in general. In my experience the times it was applied truthfully were less than the times it was misapplied for selfish ends. This is not a judgment on you, dear brother whom I love in the Truth (Jesus is the Truth), because I trust the Lord’s faithfulness to you personally and I also trust your faithfulness to God, in pursuit of Truth. You like me are working things through. You like me are not afraid to quote Buddha if we have to to get our point across, because we know the answer to Christ’s question “But who do you say that I am?” which is the opnly question that matters. I am just tapping you on the shoulder from where I am standing behind you (to back you up), with a gentle, “Yes, but…”

    I’m not at my computer nor am I at home. I am in Florida with my son John visiting my Dad, who is 82 years old and living alone in Bradenton. We haven’t seen him in 20 years, and I wanted him to meet one of his grandsons and vice versa. Johnny is 23. My Dad is a Christian of his generation, a former deacon in the Baptist church. I’ve been hoping you’d put up another post, and I couldn’t wait till I return home next weekend to let you know I look for you and your words, because knowing you exist is like fresh bread to me.

    God bless you Andrew.

  • Andrew

    Romanos,

    Thank you, brother, for your comment. I always appreciate your praise of what I have to say, but even more I appreciate your guidance. Without folks who are kind enough to say, “yes, but…” none of use would ever learn or grow.

    I surely see your point about the thing that we get angry about the most being the thing that we struggle with in ourselves. I believe I am guilty here of overstatement. To the situations I had in mind when I wrote this post, I think the statement stands. But after reading your comment I started thinking of other ways (and yes, probably more ways) in which that statement does not hold water.

    I think I might say this better with a reference to Proverbs 20:5. I think that with our anger, and especially with the sins that we as individuals tend to crusade against, we need to make sure to draw out the deep waters of our motives. We need to take a look at our own heart and see for sure why we feel the way we do. This is not to say that we shouldn’t crusade against those sins. It is not even to say that we will necessarily find any traces of that particular sin in our own life. But I do think that it happens often enough to merit a closer look. I think it is one of the Devil’s most cruel and devastatingly twisted tricks. I say this because in my own life few things have hurt me and those I love more than realizing that I had just done the very thing I spent my life hating and swearing I’d never do. I never believed for a second that there was a bit of it in me. All the while I ran people away with a torch and dagger who dared let me find out that they had been caught up in those sins.

    Anyway, again, I do appreciate you very much. I hope you have a safe trip, and enjoy reconnecting with your Dad. And thank you for reading. It does me good to know that there is someone out there who is listening.

    God bless you as well, my friend.

  • liquidlight

    hi Andrew.

    a close friend sent me a link to your blog a while back, saying that i’d like it.

    i do.

    anyone who can quote Robert Anton Wilson & Christ, generously and without contorting either, gets my vote in terms of revisits. i’ve put a link to you from my blog & will pop by more often.

    i love the punky baby pic – now there’s sweet trouble!

    adios,

    Russ
    UK

  • Andrew

    Russ,

    Glad to hear you like the page.

    RAW was basically my religion there for a while. In the end he left me disappointed…almost like he’s a human or something. But I still have a lot of respect for him, and a lot of the things he had to say. We part company in a lot of fundamental places these days, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of truth nestled down in the things he says.

    Thanks for the complement on my son’s pic too! He obviously did not like the spinach and pasta he was being fed!

    I checked out your page, and added a link too. We should talk music sometime. Ever listen to Black Moth Super Rainbow? My newest electronic music obsession.

    Pray for me, I’m a sinner,
    -Andrew

  • fakeexpressionsoftheunkown

    Andrew,
    very nice site,

    A strong scripture!!

    It reminds me of one my personal favorites: Jonah….. he was seriously angry with everyone and Godde. he was so angry that he says “I am angry enough to die.” . he also prayed to Godde saying: “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity”.

    Be blessed
    Andrew

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