“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…”
slow to wrath
The third command of this verse challenges Christians to be “slow to wrath.” There are a number of Greek words for anger. The word “wrath” in our verse means settled anger that abides in the mind sometimes with the idea of getting revenge against someone. Another Greek word for anger means an agitated outburst of inward indignation. In contrast, our word in this passage refers to an anger that is less volatile in its nature but more long lasting. It smolders beneath the surface. It seethes against someone over a long period of time by harboring a grudge against her.
James does not say Christians should never be angry, but we should be slow to get angry. As the command for slow speech is not an absolute command against all speech (although we might wish that for some individuals), so there is no absolute command against anger. God, Himself gets angry. The issue is not anger but the speed of anger.
Slow-developing anger is God’s way of protecting us against making rash mistakes in our relationships.
Wrath generally results from continually trying to get things our own way, but people keep creating obstacles. We resent them for getting in our way. We hold it against them. We want our way, and we don’t care what others think.
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Those who are quick to anger have no desire to work out the problem with the other person. They care only about getting their own way. If we care about the well being of the other person, we might get an amicable result.
A calm-spirited person can give a word of stability in a tense situation. He does not reply in kind but gives a “soft answer.” We will avoid much heartache if we follow God’s procedures for managing conflict. A soft answer turns away wrath:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Psalm 15:1).
If we control our anger, God views us as possessing great wisdom:
“He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, But he who is impulsive exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29).
A person who controls his anger is greater than a mighty conqueror:
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).