Why Are We Told to Be ‘Slow to Become Angry’?

We are told to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, but what does this mean for us in our everyday lives? How do we live a life where we are slower to speak and become angry?

  • Michelle Treacy Contributing Writer
  • 2022 9 Aug
Why Are We Told to Be ‘Slow to Become Angry’?

The Book of James can be found nestled in the New Testament of the Bible. It is thought to be written by James, Jesus’ younger brother, around A.D. 60 or so before his martyrdom. James is an exceptional book filled with practical instruction on how we should live as Christians.

It is a compilation of answers to questions and covers many topics. I have assumed, maybe wrongly, that these must have been questions that the scattered early church had been struggling with after Jesus left — if not, these letters seem somewhat pointless.

It seems James caringly took these scattered believers under his wing, so to speak. He writes to them a letter filled with practical ways to live out the Christian life.

What Is the Context of James 1:19?

This letter would last in the hearts and minds of the believers to be shared with each other via written text or oral tradition for many years to follow. He gave them a gift and left a valuable legacy that would live long after he was welcomed into heaven’s gates.

With only 108 verses in the book, it is incredible to see that James manages to fill his book with around 54 commands. This incredibly equates to almost one command every two verses.

His aim is to help us take the theology, doctrine, or principles of Christianity and live that out. However, he is sure to acknowledge we will be doing so despite the trouble, trial, and hardships that will come along in our lives.

Among the verses in the first chapter, we read these words: “my dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (v. 19).

These words, “Take note of this,” remind me often of an older man who used to speak as a layman in our church. He used to always say, “Take out your pencil and write this down!” because he knew the incredible value in what he was about to share.

I believe James was saying something similar. So, he informs us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, but what does this mean for us in our everyday life? How do we live a life where we are slower to speak and become angry and, therefore, people who listen intently?

How do we live that out, especially when our nerves are fried, and our alarm didn’t go off, starting our day in madness? Our stress levels are on the roof, and our boss needs one more job done — and all of them urgently!

Our lives are busy with chores and toing and froing, and our kids have just gotten sick, binding us to the house for a few days. Our anxiety is getting a hold of us, and we feel like we are drowning?

Our kids are nagging for more snacks, more TV time, and not to shower! Or our to-do list is growing rather than shrinking, and our productivity levels are on the floor, leading us to overwhelm?

How do we hold back when our first response to any stone in our shoe is to shout, bang, clang, and respond angrily?

Anger is something some of us deal with, and it is chronic. We are always angry. To be negative is our first response, and with it comes a dose of criticizing and angry words.

If that resonates with you, please firstly pray and then go and get some help from an anger management counselor.

Set up an accountability partner that can check in on you. A person you will decide to submit to and allow them to call you out.

It is in doing these things that you can be helped in finding out where that seed of anger began and uproot it from your life entirely. Imagine what could it look like to be free of all that weighs you down?

But friends, I know there are some of us here who are saying, “That is not me at all.” You may be right but let’s be honest here — anger doesn’t always live openly in us. Sometimes anger lives as a quiet resident dormant inside of us.

Maybe it is the silent shame from our sinful past that causes anger to wake in us and overflow from our souls. The anger we feel at ourselves builds up over time, and it spews out when we are poked at.

At times when we don’t have the energy to keep him quiet. Past trauma can do the same thing. The anger sits there while we feel we have been wronged; we feel trapped, unable to change a thing that happened that left us scarred and emotionally damaged.

That anger can boil and burn another, usually someone we love. Like baking soda soaked in vinegar, that chemical reaction of bubbling overflows from our souls and becomes apparent in our physical lives, hidden no longer.

Is Anger a Sin?

Anger is one of those complex emotions. It is a fire that is usually easily lit and very hard to quench. As I write these words, I think of Haman in the Book of Esther. Here we see a man who let his anger burn ablaze, leaving him to believe genocide was his only option (Esther 3).

I should stress here that anger isn’t all wrong, despite what can be believed. There are times when it is the right response, for example, when we see injustice, greed, violence, death, and sin.

We see Jesus angry in the New Testament. In John 2, we see him drive money changers out of the temple using a handmade whip, telling them off for turning his “Father’s house into a marketplace” (John 2:16).

Anger in and of itself is not the issue. The Book of Ephesians tells us, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you” (Ephesians 4:26, NLT).

Being controlled by our anger to the point of sin is the issue, but anger can be so hard to control, and so James tells us to be slow to get angry, listen first, and speak last.

But why? Why does it matter so much? If we read on into the Book of James, just one more verse, we read the words: “because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (v. 20). Anger is not positively productive and does not produce a righteous life.

The Christian life should see us become more and more like Jesus, being sanctified in our journey of life with Jesus by our side and our reflection looking more like Jesus Christ.

The “old man,” as Colossians words it, should reside less and less as we pursue and become increasingly holier.

If we are living in anger, that glorious, righteous life that we are aiming for just won’t flourish as it should. It is like roses strangled by thorns.

We will never be like Jesus if we do not repay evil with love. If we do not lay down our selfish desire to take vengeance and allow God to repay the evil that is done to us, as God says, “Vengeance is mine… Their foot shall slip in due time” (Deuteronomy 32).

God sees all that is done, and He will see each person is treated appropriately according to their deeds.

Why Does This Matter?

So, friend, may I leave you with the words of verse 21, which say: “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.”

Make a choice today to set aside the anger, the annoyance, the immoral, and trust in the good work of God to do what needs to be done.

Instead, choose today to be a person who listens, who deals with their past, who speaks last, who gives the benefit of the doubt, and more than anything else loves the person who commits evil.

Love is the greatest act and catalyst of the gospel. It is by love that you love, it is by love that you are saved, it is by love that you are being sanctified, and it is by love that others will come to know Christ.

Micah 7:18 tells us that because God delights in steadfast love his anger will not retain forever.  Love is a powerful weapon; wield it carefully but also freely.

For further reading:

What Does it Mean ‘Be Angry and Sin Not’?

Is it Okay for Believers to Feel 'Righteous' Anger?

Is it Wrong to Be Angry with God?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Veronika Viskova


SWN authorMichelle Treacy is a Christian writer, a wife to Gerald, and a busy mother of three, Emily, Ava Rose, and Matthew. Finding time to write is not always easy. However, Michelle’s desire to write about Jesus, and passion to teach is what motivates her. Michelle writes on Instagram Michelle_Treacy_ and for CrimsonSeasCA. Also, on WordPress at Thoughts From My Bible. If you meet her in person, you will likely find her with two things in hand, a good Christian book, and a cup of tea!