“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19).
The “every person” James has in mind are those who belong to the household of faith. It has reference to “my beloved brothers” earlier in the sentence and describes the family dynamic of the household of faith.
I remember my grandfather saying, “We don’t talk that way in this house.” That’s exactly what James is saying. We must control our tongues, guard our speech, and weigh our words. Particularly, James has in mind what will contribute to the righteousness God desires. The tongue can tear down or it can build up. We need to make sure it serves the latter.
This is a concern for us because of the danger involved. I had a dachshund that had a nasty disposition. We got it as a rescue and I can only imagine its history. He was not friendly, especially around other dogs. We would have to hold tight to his leash lest he launch himself teeth-bared.
James relates the tongue as the leash to anger. We need to hold tight lest it attack and do damage beyond that done by sticks and stones. Our speech is often the weapon of choice in the hands of anger.
Whenever we find teaching on anger in the Bible, we find teaching on the tongue in the vicinity. For example, Paul calls us in Ephesians to “be angry and do not sin” (4:26). A couple verses later he teaches on the tongue: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).
Our anger is armed and dangerous.
“Holy Spirit, set a guard over my heart and lips that Christ might be honored.”