My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…(James 1:19).
The media circus around the “Covington Catholic Kids” and Nathan Phillips is like a car crash where you can’t avert your eyes. Everybody seems to be jumping to conclusions before all the facts are in.
In our desire to discover the truth (one of the themes in James), we should strive to get all the facts (be quick to listen), listen more than we speak (since we have two ears and one mouth), and reach conclusions only when the facts are in (slow to become angry).
James is probably working from earlier Jewish writings like Ben Sira: “Be quick to hear, and be deliberate in answering. If you have understanding, answer your neighbor; but if not, put your hand on your mouth. Glory and dishonor come from speaking, and a man’s tongue is his downfall (Sir. 5:11-13).” Rabbis called this the “third tongue” because it “kills” three people: the speaker, the one spoken to, and the one spoken of.
The foolishness of jumping to conclusions, of speaking without understanding, of refusing due diligence before opining, brings shame and pain. We would do well to heed the Bible’s wisdom here.
In a world of lightning-fast information, we’re tempted to reach lightning-fast conclusions and shout our immediate opinions, condemnations, or vindications. James might write to us today: “Don’t believe everything you read or hear; Be quick to do your research, slow to repost and slow to reach conclusions.”
This is wisdom and has never been more relevant than it is today. It’s pertinent to the media, to politicians, to bloggers…to us all. And if this is an area in which you struggle, James gives us this promise: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).”
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