Hi, this is pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…how to win every disagreement.

It seems there is no shortage of opportunities to become disgruntled in today’s environment. There are our employers, our coworkers, our families, our marriages, social media, the news media, and for some of us…those we have to share the roads with. All giving us the opportunity to find ourselves in opposition to someone else. So how can we win every disagreement or altercation with someone we find ourselves engaged in? The following scripture from the New Life Translation speaks to just that dilemma.

James 1:19-20 (New Life Translation) My Christian brothers, you know everyone should listen much and speak little. He should be slow to become angry. A man’s anger does not allow him to be right with God.

How many times could I have avoided trouble if only I had learned to heed that advice sooner? How about you? Have you found in your life there are all too many examples that flesh out the wisdom stated here as I have?  This is an interesting scripture because it offers three great lessons in just two short verses.

Lesson # 1 – We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. I bet if your upbringing was anything like mine, you heard this phrase thrown in your direction by a parent or teacher when you were failing to understand the importance of listening first and then speaking. It is true that we have two ears and one mouth, and while I’m not sure God made that anatomical choice for this reason…we should learn to use them proportionately. There have been occasions in my life when I have followed this rule (though not often enough in my youth for sure) that it has profited me. When I have let wisdom prevail and listened before speaking, I have avoided arguments, preventing unnecessary strife, foolishness, and the general unpleasant taste of my foot in my mouth. When I haven’t followed this admonition I have lost face, money, time, dignity and others good will toward me. If we are to be seen as people of favor, we must learn to listen much and speak little. We must take the time to garner as much information as possible before taking a position that we may not be so comfortable with had we just waited before adhering ourselves to it. Proverbs 17:28 says that Even a fool, when he keeps quiet, is thought to be wise. When he closes his lips, he is thought of as a man of understanding. Reminds me of a sign I once saw hanging on the wall of a manager’s office…“Never miss the chance to shut up”. Crude perhaps, but good advice none the less.

Lesson # 2 – We should be slow to become angry. Many people believe that this part of the scripture hinges on the first, that by first listening, we will gain enough understanding that we will not become angry when we realize there is nothing to be angry about. This can be the case. Sometimes through listening we will realize that an offense is not present that we may have thought to exist before we heard all the facts. But what about the times when even after listening, an offense still lingers in our ears. Are we then free to ‘let-r-rip’ and tell the offender off? I don’t think we can assume from this or any other scripture we are being given such permission. This is a separate admonition altogether. No matter what the circumstances, we are to be slow to become angry. Why? Because anger is seldom controlled. Not that it is impossible, just improbable. When we become angry we tend to let that particular emotion do the talking for us…and that is rarely if ever profitable. We are told in Psalm 4:4, Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent. In other words, when you are angry, don’t go off half-cocked, wait a while and decide later how to handle it. Being slow to become angry is always…always better for us as people, but even more so as Christ followers. Why?

Lesson # 3 – A man’s anger does not allow him to be right with God. As I stated above, anger producing righteous behavior isn’t impossible…but it is highly improbable. Face it, as human beings, we just aren’t that good. Our anger is almost always augmented by our sense (or ill sense) of self-justification, and it is from that precarious position that we usually take a stand…and then fall…flat on our self-righteous faces! Our example is God. No one has better justification for anger and yet Micah 7:18 tells us that even God delights in choosing to turn from His anger and toward mercy on our behalf. In other words, anger is a natural response to being wronged, but it is not the only possible reaction. If we want to look more like Jesus, if we want to be godly men and women, we have to follow His example and allow our anger toward our offender to melt into mercy. Anger will not allow us to be right with God, mercy on the other hand, makes us look more like Him.

So now, making the most of all those opportunities to look like Jesus…Go be awesome!