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"Two Ears ... One Mouth ... Good Design!"
James 1:19-20

Sunday School Youth Group Study Notes
June 15, 2008

Theme: To get the greatest benefit from God's word, put the emphasis on 'receiving'.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

Pastor James has been giving good counsel to us. His book is the greatest manual for success in daily living that you could ever find. Those who grow from the biblical teaching he gives us do so, first of all, because they have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and have been saved from their sins. But second, they go on to grow in Him because they have learned how to rightly "receive" instruction.

You can have the best instruction for life in the world; but if you don't "receive" it right, you wont grow from it. In these two verses, James teaches us how to be receptive to the instruction of God's word and then move on to "do" it (v. 25).


A. We can hear God's word; but not really "hear" it. Jesus warned that this can happen. The disciples once asked why He spoke to the crowds in what seemed like confusing parables. He answered, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand" (Matthew 13:11-13). One kind of hearing is a physical act—which can be done with a rebellious heart. Another kind is a hearing that is done with a willing submission to God and a readiness to do as He says. This is what James means by being "swift to hear".

B. He also warns that we should be "slow to speak". Sometimes, our great problem is that when we should be listening, we are thinking instead of what we'd like to say. Proverbs 29:20 says, "Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him." And Proverbs 10:19 says, "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise." As someone said, it's better to keep quiet and appear stupid than it is to open your mouth and remove all doubt!

C. This is most important when it comes to receiving God's word. When it comes to the principles of living, we're not the experts; God is. We think that the greatest privilege today is to have the freedom to speak our minds. And yet, placing an emphasis on what we have to say shows a refusal to be teachable toward God. God has given us one mouth and two ears. If we would give twice as much attention to listening to His mind as we do to speaking our own, we'd get into a lot less trouble in life.


A. Pastor James puts special emphasis on being "slow to anger". The times when we are angry are the times when we are most inclined to sin with our mouths. We want to lash out at someone who has done something wrong to us, or give them a piece of our minds. The people of this world tell us, "Let it out! Tell people what you think of them!" But the Bible warns; "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. Therefore 'if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:19-21).

B. We think that we can tell people what we think of them when we're angry, and do it justly. But we cannot. The Bible tells us that it's okay to be angry at times; but it warns, "Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:25-26).

C. James warns that the wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God. Usually our wrath is more about ourselves than about God. Later on, James will teach us, ". . . [I]f you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there (James 3:14-16). If we would follow James' counsel to us—hearing first what God's word has to say to us, before we speak—then what we have to say will be far more worth hearing!

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Memorize our passage. Then pray about it and ask God to show you how you may be placing a greater emphasis on being 'heard' than you are on 'hearing'.

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