Slow to anger

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

A little while ago, I read through the epistle of James with a young man from my church over the course of a few weeks. In our very first reading, through the first chapter, he noticed a parallel between James' admonition, that we should be "slow to wrath", and a statement about God's own character in Psalm 103:

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. (Psalm 103:8)

A very astute observation!

The psalmist teaches us that God, who is slow to anger, executes his righteousness and judgment for the oppressed. A corollary of this, following James, is that the righteousness of God is not established by the anger of man.

What makes this connection to Psalm 103 especially interesting is that James has just compared the rich man and his ways to the fading flower and withering grass. We should perhaps think of the way the psalmist uses this same imagery: while man's days are brief, like grass under the scorching sun, the covenant love of the Lord for those who fear him is strong and enduring from generation to generation.

Though the rich have oppressed and bullied them (2:6-7; 5:4-6), James assures his readers that these wicked with their riches will soon be burned up with the coming of the Lord. The anger of man will not achieve this righteous judgment, and so it becomes necessary to wait upon the Lord's own justice. God will show his faithfulness to his people, but the ungodly, like chaff, will not stand in the judgment.

James holds out to his readers an invitation to become like the Lord himself, that they might be made steadfast and steady in the face of trials and that the Lord's own grace and mercy might establish his righteousness in the world.