Purpose Behind Every Command

Anokina Shahbaz, Volunteer Writer, Huntley | March 29, 2024

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 
James 1:19-20

Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city. 
Proverbs 16:32

“Anger does not produce righteousness in you,” said no spouse ever during a marital argument. And yet, that is the case, as we see in today’s verse. In the quick to speak, slow to listen world we live in, doing the opposite seems counter-cultural. But isn’t so much of what Jesus taught exactly that? We know God desires righteousness; He is very clear in His Word about what that does and does not look like. So how can we learn to be “slow to become angry” when it often feels impossible? 

It begins with awareness—bringing our attention to our reactiveness. Why are we reacting? To what, exactly? Our reactions are clues that reveal our deep-seated motivations and emotional needs. It takes a great amount of fortitude to step back and see ourselves from a larger lens. We step back in order to step forward into a new way of being that is aligned with God’s desire for our character.

This work takes time and is not painless. So much of what God asks of us requires going against our sinful nature. Forgiveness is so much harder than resentment. Humility is more difficult to express than pride. But God knows that the slower we are to sin, the sooner we’re protected from the afflictions caused by sin’s bitter grip. He knows the suffering awaiting us if we don’t listen. There is purpose behind every command God asks us to follow.

Not only does anger “not produce the righteousness that God desires,” it can also inhibit the transforming work He intends to do in our lives. If I choose to remain angry at my spouse, it does not leave room for reconciliation. If I am not slow to become angry with my close friend and spew hurtful words, it does not create space for a life-giving exchange. Ultimately, what God wills in our life will come to pass, but we sure slow it down with our not-so-holy feelings.

Learning to be slow to become angry also helps us demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit of self-control. As we grow in this discipline and improve our ability not to react bitterly to whatever wrongs we perceive others are causing us, we will gradually be able to step back and see others as God does—with love and compassion. We will see, as Jesus said on the cross, that “they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Next Steps

Prayerfully consider how you can begin to learn to be slow to anger. Become aware of your reactiveness when it happens and surrender it to God, asking Him to transform it into self-control.