In James chapter 1, James writes that we do not sin because God tempts us or because His gifts are bad (1:13,16). His point is that we do not sin because of external forces upon us.
So why do we sin if it not because of things outside of us? We sin because we have evil desires. In 1:14-15 he writes, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” We sin because of the sin within us. This means that you do not sin because of your spouse, your children, your job, your finances, or anything else that we so often blame. We have no one and nothing to blame for our sinful actions but ourselves.
So what do we do? As Christians we have been forgiven of our sins and made into new creations. No longer are we slaves to sin but we do still fight with sin. How do we live victorious over the sin that tries to creep up from within our own souls?
In 1:19 James begins to answer this. “Be quick to hear, slow to speak , slow to anger…” Because we know our sin wants to lash out, James exhorts us as believers to think before we speak. We are not to react quickly to someone’s comments or actions but rather we are to think first. We are to pray about our response. By being quick to hear we demonstrate love to the other person by actually listening to them rather them formulating our response and defense. Being slow to speak is like removing oxygen from a fire, it gives time for all the flames to go away. Being slow to speak also gives us time to use our words for the greatest impact.
Is there really hope for our fast moving tongues? Can we really stop them? James 1:26 says, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Here, James points out that real faith in Jesus Christ has a transformative effect on our tongues. The grace of Jesus Christ that saves us from our sins also has the power to bridle our tongues. There is no other religion that can do that. There is no other faith that has the power to overcome and kill the sinful desires of our hearts. So as a believer in Jesus how do we become quick to hear and slow to speak? James says it is the power of the religion that gives the victory. And since we became believers by faith in Jesus then we will only experience victory over sin as we continue to grow in our faith in Jesus. And one way we grow in faith in Jesus is by reading His word and then ‘doing’ His Word (1:22).
If we as believers are going to continually experience victory over our sinful desires then we must commit to reading and obeying the Word by faith. And while we could say prayer and fellowship and other spiritual disciplines are important, it is the Word of God that James points out as necessary here in chapter 1. This makes sense when we remember what Paul says in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.” We came to faith in Jesus through the Word and we will grow in our faith through the Word. The Word of God is indispensable to the christian life and victory over sin. The Word feeds out faith and makes it grow stronger and stronger.