Can You Dig It: A SOAP Study on James 1:19-21

Scripture: “Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.” ~ James 1:19-21 (MSG)

 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” ~ James 1:19-21 (ESV)

Observations/Applications: Before we analyze these verses, we must first note the context of James 1. In this letter, Peter is discussing two things:

  1. How believers should persevere during trials.
  2. How to receive wisdom from God.

After converging these points in the intro, Peter provides a powerful series: Lead by listening, be slow to speak to ensure discernment, and be slower to anger so peace may abound.

Essentially, Peter pulls inspiration from the Proverbs and converts it into an endurance tutorial.  

Are you weary and weak? Be still and know He is God.

Are you experiencing pain? Let God bridge your hurt and emotion.

Do you find your faith tested? Again, be still, listen, and know God is for you.

After all, faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). 

As for our listening, Peter isn’t saying we automatically replace speaking with hearing. Rather, He is channeling a similar vibe from Ephesians 4:29-30

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” 

Often times, we perceive this passage through the lens of St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel use words if necessary.” However, we must remember while the man meant well, his words aren’t Scripture. We don’t determine what’s necessary through free will but through what is good and true as God defines; hence, why engagement in God’s Word is critical for growth and the life that results.

‘Cause truth is: There are many times at work or in house when we must communicate. Especially in certain professionals, we can’t always afford to be silent or plow behind the comfort of a screen. As such, it’s important we as Kingdom influencers speak life when we speak up or out. Again, it’s not about what we have to say but rather what needs to be said. If our aim is to make God’s love known through truth, we must remember timely stillness, not perpetual quietude, is the road to this reality. 

Now, before I continue, let me be clear. I’m not saying St. Francis of Assisi was wrong; I’m not saying those who advocate the phrase are wrong. Rather I am cautioning us to consider what ‘if necessary’ means as we reference God in the moment, on the clock, etc. Obviously, don’t be silent when you’re supposed to speak and call it ‘wisdom’. Instead know the purpose of your perseverance, in silence or in speech, comes down to aligning to God’s love in faith and His will in prayer.  Remember the ‘how’ bows to the who; not the other way around. As great as our execution can be when given the green light, God’s light is all the greater.

I love how the ESV and MSG translations dance in v. 21:

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.”

Like the implied soil, the imagery here is rich. As Lord of all creation, God by proxy is the master gardener of our hearts given His Word is designed to root and yield fruit. Yet, while we know the way we live should reflect what we belief, in the minutiae of work, it’s not always easy. Crazy clients, detached supervisors, secondary natter…the challenge of our character’s consistency never stops.

Thankfully, Peter gives us a straight-forward example of how we can engage space for faith to mature. As we turn from pride and abandon fear, we can receive God’s Word with meekness knowing it’s already been planted in our hearts. This doesn’t mean God is one-and-done with what He sows; contrarily, it means when we come to faith in Christ, God never stops pursuing more room in our hearts to hide His Word. From there, God by His Spirit stirs us closer to His heart by encouraging us to His Word.

Now, here’s where it gets fun. First off, why would Peter conclude his point with an earthy metaphor? Or better put, how can we receive something from God that’s already been buried?

To answer this, let’s review Philippians 4:8 (AMP):

Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart.

This leads me to a key point:

Just as God is faithful to plant His Word, we likewise must be faithful to implant it.

For many who believe Jesus is Lord and Savior can the accept the idea God sows truth by His Spirit. The question is when push comes to shove in our darkest days, when the chaos of enterprise is sapping our strength, are we focusing on what is perfect, pure, and honorable? Or are we setting before us the way of surviving and striving? 

Think of this way: If God entrusts us with His trust, then we can implant what He plants. What He sows, He renews, and what He renews we can reap in confidence. My encouragement to you, my friends, is to not separate your daily work from your daily walk. Let gratitude pave the way for humility and let humility mark the efforts of your heart and mind. Care for each other with sincerity knowing what you do is secondary to who and how God has made you. And as you reference God, know you approach Him as more than a conqueror. As you resist fear and anxiety, as you cast your cares on the Lord, understand you’re giving Him room to landscape your heart with inspired truth and perspective straight from His Word. Don’t just think about things that are good, but let God cultivate His good into a harvest shared with those around you. Whatever you do, whatever you say…let your work be a testimony of God’s Word continually renewed in you. By committing to these soul goals, these divine purposes, not only will you ‘fertile’ your heart but discover the seeds you’re meant to sow back as a co-gardener unto the Lord.

Selah.

Prayer: Lord, in times like these, what can we do but thank you? To stand in awe of your goodness and faithfulness despite our frailties and fragilities? As we digest this Word, we’re reminded of your master plan as created by master hands. Of anything that made new, we know it comes for you. As such, help us to treasure your Word as daily bread, as branches clinging to the vine. Plant new words, ideas, and visions into our hearts today. Teach us how to be faithful stewards of the rich seed you give us. May they take root for your glory so we, as humble, fearless workers, can tell your story. Landscape our ‘now’  so we may calibrate to your ‘wow’. We ask this in Jesus’ mighty, precious name. 

Cover photo creds: experteasy.com