Here is some godly advice from James that seems so simple on the surface, but our sinfulness keeps us from properly exercising it:
1) Be quick to hear. Hearing isn't just listening. It's taking what you hear and storing it in your heart. It's following godly advice and rejecting ungodly advice. It's forming a deep heart knowledge that changes us. As Christians, we have been opened to the truth. The Holy Spirit causes us to thirst for truth. It is food for our souls, and so we must receive it with meekness and quietude. We can't hear anything, if our mouths are open and running. Ecclesiastes 5 reads, "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil." We are so desperate to prove ourselves to God that we just barge in and begin to offer ourselves. First we must listen to his words, because his is the purest of wisdom and can only be the most helpful of advice. Chances are, what we were about to say becomes unnecessary. We didn't need to say it. "Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth." Know where you stand. The greatest of earthly wisdom is but the braying of a donkey compared to the least wisdom from heaven. God is omnipotent. Of course we must listen to him before attempting to offer him anything we may have figured out on earth. "Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words." We feel we need to defend our positions to each other and to God. This advice goes against our grain. Shut up and listen! Let your words be few, if any!
2) Be slow to speak. Proverbs 10:19 reads, "When words are many, transgression is not lacking," showing us that the incessant talker is ever closer to sinning than the quiet one. "But whoever restrains his lips is prudent." Proverbs 17:27 reads, "Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding." Talking is like a leak in a balloon. The more air comes out, the smaller the balloon gets, until it is completely deflated. We open our mouth to prove ourselves, and the nonsense comes out, and then all of our knowledge and understanding goes with it. In a world where we are encouraged to defend and prove ourselves, this seems like contrary advice.
3) Be slow to anger. Notice anger and incessant talking are linked. Have you ever heard someone talk constantly and not stop? It seems like they are angry, even if they aren't. Proverbs 14:29 reads, "Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly." Listening and hearing and storing truth in your hearts does not provoke anger. It calms you. So, we have three things linked on each side of the line. On one side we have talkativeness, anger and foolishness, and on the other we have silence, righteousness, and wisdom. Let's add a fourth thing:
4) Filthiness and rampant wickedness is the seed of foolish talk and anger. The following passage (Colossians 3:1-10) brings much clarity:
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator."
Sin, folly, anger, and loquaciousness are linked, but what of the opposite? If sin brings out rambling, anger, and foolishness, what brings out peace, wisdom, and righteousness?
5) The Implanted Word is the source. Whereas the former things are symptoms of an unchecked sinful life, the Bible itself is the source of righteousness and wisdom. All truth is in the pages of scripture, and we need to be silent and calm to receive it. We receive God's Word with meekness, not anger. An angry babbler cannot even hear a voice calling out to him, much less implant God's word in his heart.
James 3:13 reads, "Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom." The gospel saves our souls. 1 Cor 15:1-2 reads, "Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain." The end result is the saving of our souls, which glorifies God, so be silent and listen.
Having trouble yet? Of course, because our sinful nature is tearing at us, getting us to open our mouths and defend ourselves, angrily for effect! But God has given us his gospel, and all words in the Bible point to his gospel. The focus is Jesus Christ alone, and when we look at his life, we see that to follow James' commands in this section is to be in Christ:
Jesus was quick to hear. He listened to everyone who approached him, even his enemies. He only spoke truth. He never let anything false come from his lips. He was slow to speak. He didn't even defend himself to Pilate, and Pilate still found him innocent. When he did speak, everything he said was Biblical and true. Jesus was slow to anger. The only incident we have of anger, really, is when he cleansed the temple. This, of course, was foreshadowing the day of wrath, when he cleanses the earth of all the ungodly. Jesus' anger is a righteous anger, without malicious intent or foolhardiness. His is an effective anger, a holy anger, a heroic anger, the climactic ending of an epic story where the evil and wicked finally get their comeuppance, and the ones who stood on the side of their righteous leader when he was ridiculed are saved forever. Jesus was without sin, so he had no source of foolishness, rambling, or petty anger. Jesus himself IS the implanted word. He is the righteousness of God. God plants him in our hearts. We receive him with meekness, not anger. His glory calms us, prevents us, stops our mouth. The gospel silences everyone. Jesus opens our ears; he opens our hearts. He bestows wisdom upon us. Right and wrong become easy to discern. Jesus saves our souls. He snatches us from the fire. He lay down his life on our behalf. He died in our place, and we live because of him.