“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
God requires righteousness from me. He expects for me, as a redeemed child of God to, to pursue holiness at every turn. Holiness is the expectation. Anger is an outward manifestation towards the inward disconnect between me and the word of God.
As a child of God, I have been forgiven of my sins by the death of Jesus Christ. Stated differently, Jesus’ righteousness – or holiness – has been applied to me on his behalf. I am no longer in bondage to sin, to its ungodly desires, or to its destructive nature. This includes anger.
When James warns me that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires” he is not suggesting that I could produce righteousness that leads to salvation. I know that Ephesians 2:8,9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Rather, James is hinting at what he will later explain in greater detail: true faith and true righteousness will be justified (or made apparent in my life) by my good deeds.
A simple way to think about this is to say that true righteousness, which only comes from God, will always be accompanied by righteous living.
This truth brings me to a welcomed reality check. What is happening to me spiritually when I become angry or my decisions are producing an unrighteous lifestyle? If I am continually given to anger and unholiness there is a high likelihood that I am not subjecting myself to a constant intake of the word of God. I am not reading my Bible. I am not spending time in prayer. I am not talking with other believers about my relationship with God.
What then do I do if I find this to be true in my life? First, I must ask myself several tough questions:
- Do I really believe that Jesus is the Son of God?
- Do I really believe that I was born into this world a sinful person, damned to spend eternity separate from God?
- Do I really believe that Jesus, though He was righteous, took on the full wrath of God for me and paid for my unrighteousness?
- Do I believe that I have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus and am set free from the bondage of sin?
If I answer yes to the above questions and still find myself angry and practicing a life of unholiness, there is only one option. James makes it very clear in verse 21: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” I must commit to stop making unholy decisions and I must depend on the Holy Spirit to lead me through that commitment. This is called the process of sanctification and it will not happen unless I consistently “receive with meekness the implanted word.” If I am not willing to work out my sanctification with fear and trembling, I fooling myself when I claim to be a child of God.
Anger and unrighteous living is a sure sign of my disconnect from the word of God.