The blog entry “Communication with Our Desires on the Table” provides a relevant communication exercise that a Sunday School teacher or pastor would want to consider when teaching this passage.

Chapter 1 Verses 19-20:

What was it that would have made James’ readers angry?  Why did James’ readers need to hear “be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger”? James’ readers had to flee their homes due to persecution in Jerusalem.  They were now in the process of rebuilding their lives.  The shock was wearing off and the anger was settling in.  This was unfair and wrong.  They missed their home and extended family.  They were starting over when they should have been getting ahead.

How does this context help us apply this passage? James was writing to people whose anger was prompted by a righteous cause.  Rarely are we angry and believe we are wrong, but James’ audience truly knew they were right.  Yet James still gives this advice.  Too often we assume that anger with a righteous cause is righteous anger.  If this were true, James would not have needed to pen these words.

What was James trying to get his readers to see, understand, and do? James’ readers were not in the same cities as those with whom they were angry.  If they remained angry with every pagan who might pose a threat, the Gospel would have been trapped.  Their anger would “not accomplish God’s righteousness.”  They must listen to their new neighbors and resist the urge to quickly interject when fear was aroused (and it would have been if you had already been run out of town for your faith once).  Pagans would not understand why these people were refugees for Jesus.  If the dispersed Christians were argumentative and defensive, trying to plead their case to their new neighbors, then relationships (conduits of the Gospel) would have been closed before they had the chance to open.

What do I do with this when I am trying to apply it with someone who did hurt me? James’ readers were tying to obey this passage by not allowing bitterness to spill over onto innocent new neighbors.  Does that mean I don’t have to listen and be patience with my rude and inconsiderate spouse, child, boss, parent, neighbor, friend, co-worker, etc…? No, I am afraid we do not get off the hook.  Honor remains the same.  Understanding the context helps us see that this passage applies even to our righteous anger.  As we see the context of the passage, it allows us to see how clearly this passage does apply to many of the “exception clauses” that come to mind.
Chapter 1 Verse 25:

Becoming “Doers of the Word”

One of the ways that we become forgetful and casual in our Bible intake is when our method of study becomes routine and mundane.  We go through the motions and remember what we read as much as we remember making our morning coffee or brushing our teeth.  A variety in our biblical intake increases our retention.  The following chart is designed to help you brainstorm different types of intake for each level of study.

Level of Study                 Scripture                          In what ways can Bible study be implemented at this level in your life?

Hearing                        II Tim. 3:14-15
Reading                          John 17:17

“A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God’s boundless store of grace from day to day as we need it.” D.L. Moody

Studying                         II Tim. 2:15
“Our age has been sadly deficient in what may be termed spiritual greatness. At the root of this is the modern disease of shallowness. We are too impatient to meditate on the faith we profess… Rather it is unhurried meditation on gospel truth and the exposing of our minds to these truths that yields the fruit of sanctified character.” Maurice Roberts
Memorizing                   Psalm 119:9-19

“While some advocate a kind of meditation in which you do your best to empty your mind, Christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and truth.” Donald Whitney

Applying                          James 1:22-24

“All too often people rush to the application stage and bypass the interpretation stage: they want to know what it means for them before they know what it means!” Richard Foster