In James 1:19-27, the writer builds upon his discussion on enduring trials by focusing on what we can do to avoid unnecessary trials in our lives. Most of the trials we face in life come about simply because we live in a sin cursed world. Many trials are simply unavoidable. However, there are those trials that we face that are avoidable. There are trials that we face that we put upon our own selves. In this passage, we learn how we can avoid unnecessary trials.
Close your mouth (v. 19-20). In light of what James said concerning trials, we are to listen more than we speak. Life is hard enough as it is. When we open our big mouths and say things without thinking it through, we are essentially making life harder than it has to be. Facing trials is inevitable. Why would we add to those trials by opening our mouths? Here is how it works: let’s say there is someone with whom you have a disagreement. Perhaps this is an individual that you have struggled with in the past or perhaps there is some type of personality differences that put you at odds with one another. When that individual says something to you or voices their opinion, you automatically cut them off and begin to formulate your own opinion that is in direct opposition of what they are trying to say. You formulate that opinion without carefully listening to what they have to say and without putting yourself in their shoes to see where they may be coming from. Then you open your mouth and speak out in opposition to what they say. As a result of your quick an uncalculated response, the individual then becomes frustrated and angered. Wrath is stirred up, words are exchanged, and the whole situation gets blown out of proportion and you now have an all-out ongoing trial that you must deal with. However, if you just kept your mouth shut and you listened rather than speaking then the whole ordeal may have been avoided. Over the years serving in pastoral ministry I have learned from experience the need to be a good listener and to seriously consider what others have to say. In doing so, there are many trials that can be avoided. As a side note, let me give you a few principles to consider when it comes to dealing with someone that you disagree with or with someone who opposes you. (1) Listen. No matter what the opposition says or who says it, there is always some truth in what they say. Therefore, listen carefully to the critics because you may very well learn that there is more you have in common than you previously thought. (2) Think. As you listen, don’t think about what you are going to say, instead think about what they are saying. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself why they may hold to a certain opinion. (3) Speak. As you respond, do so in a loving and soft tone. Be sure to acknowledge that you heard what they had to say and that you value their opinion. Highlight the things that you do agree with and then carefully and lovingly express those things that you disagree with. By handling disagreements and opposition in this manner, you will avoid unnecessary heartache and trials. However, if you open your mouth too soon and you simply lash out, you will then stir up wrath and strife and life will then become more difficult than it really has to be.
Put away sin (v. 21). In our study of James 1:1-18, we learned that sin is the source of trials. We go through various troubles and trials in life because we live in a world that has been cursed because of sin. Many of the trials we face have nothing to do with any particular sins that we have committed but simply because we are living on this earth that is cursed because of the existence of sin. However, there are those trials that we face that come as a direct result of our own sin. The question here is, why would we make life harder on ourselves by opening our mouths rather than listening and by engaging in sinful acts? We are going to face trials anyways, so why make it even harder when there are some trials that we can very well avoid? In verse 21, James mentions how that we are to put away sin and how we are to receive the Word of God that is implanted or engrafted in us. As the source of trials, sin has a way of producing trials in our lives. Those trials may very well be avoided if we rid ourselves of those sins. For example, if you sin against your own body by putting in your body substances that will harm you, don’t complain when you get sick. You put it upon yourself. It could have been avoided. If you sin against someone else by gossip and slander, don’t complain when the problem escalates. You put it upon yourself. When you sin against God by doing things your own way rather than by obedience to the Word, then don’t complain when God does not bless you. You put it upon yourself. There many trials that we face that can be avoided if we would put away the sin that is in our lives.
Obey the Word (v. 22-25). Here we find the key verse in the book of James. We are to not just be hearers of the Word, but we are to be doers of the Word. When you are a hearer and not a doer, you are like a man who looks in a mirror and walks away and forgets what he looks like. In other words, when you are just a hearer and not a doer, you will forget who you are in Christ and you will find yourself caught up in the ways of the world. However, when you hear the Word and obey what it says, you will be blessed in the things that you do. There are many trials that can be avoided if you just simply obey the Word.
Practice pure religion (v. 26-27). In order to avoid unnecessary trials we must not only close our mouths, put away sin, and obey the Word, but we must also practice pure religion. The term ‘religion’ in these verses has to do with being a true Christian. These are some very serious and convicting verses. Basically, what it is saying is that if you do not do what a true Christian is supposed to do, then you are not really saved. Your Christianity is not real. In these verses we find three characteristics of a true Christian. If these characteristics are not found in your life, then you are not a true Christian. (1) Bridle your tongue. I believe this is going back to what is taught in verses 19-20. When we open our mouths and speak hastily without listening to what others have to say, then we are not acting as a true Christian should act. (2) Perform good deeds. A true Christian is going to care for others. A true Christian will focus on encouraging others rather than tearing them down. Good deeds do not save you. However, good deeds are the evidence of true salvation. (3) Separate from the world. You cannot live for Jesus and for the world at the same time. A true Christian will keep him or herself unspotted from the world. In other words, they will live a separated life. By practicing pure religion: bridling your tongue, performing good deeds, and being separated from the world; you will avoid many trials in your life.
No one wants to go through trials. Some trials just happen because of our living in a sin-cursed world. However, there are many trials that can be avoided. Don’t make life harder on yourself than it already is. Do what it takes to avoid unnecessary trials.