Lead and follow - two directional words, each conveying a little different action from us. To lead, one is guiding something in a certain direction - the direction already being predetermined and the course understood. To follow, one moves behind, but in the same direction as the one who leads. It is most hard to get our ears to be leaders and our tongue followers, isn't it? Most of the time, we allow our tongues to lead and then surprise our ears with whatever our tongues say!
Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life. (James 1:19-21 MSG)
This passage makes it quite clear why we might just have some of the issues in life we face today. It is in the "order" in which we conduct ourselves! Have you really stopped to consider this passage? James tells us to POST this at all intersections of our lives - simply because the point he is making is valuable in ALL relationships we have! If we listen first, speak second, and let anger take a seat very far back on the bus, we might just fair a little better!
There are so many passages in the scriptures about our words - if something is spoken about so much, it is important for us to pay attention to what is written for our guidance. So, let's tear this down a little...
1. Lead with your ears. I think this is where we get into trouble most of the time. It isn't the "not listening" which always does us in, but it is also in the "who" or "what" we are listening to. Yesterday, I focused on having God at the center of our lives - keeping him foremost in our minds, hearts, emotions, and spirit. As long as self is in the center, sin will get a foothold. We will be following a fickle leader! For self is not "stable" in any of its choices - it lives for the whims and fancies of today. When we finally come to the place of stopping the "self-improvement" campaigns in our lives, we begin to place ourselves in a position of being spoken to by the Spirit of God. This is the voice we should heed - not our own. Get under the right authority and the following becomes easier! I once heard someone say we need to turn our thoughts into a discussion with God. If we become proficient in this practice, the voices we hear will be trustworthy and fixed on the best for our lives.
2. Follow up with your tongue. James is focusing on the damage of the reverse - leading with the tongue - speaking before thinking. If our thoughts become discussions with God, allowing him to lead us down the paths he would have us follow, we will be less likely to make rash statements, promises we never intend to fulfill, or commitments which are just too burdensome to ever complete.
3. Let anger straggle along in the rear. Now, look at this - he doesn't say if we hear first, answer second, there will never be any anger in the mix. He simply says it doesn't even bear a close place within the relationship because there is less likelihood of anger being a strong "contender".
So, how do we get to this place of leading with our ears, following up with our tongues, and seeing anger actually being in a win, place or show in our lives? The answer is found in the next portion of the passage - we let God landscape us with his Word. If you are a daily follower of this blog, you probably already have a desire to have your life "landscaped" with his Word. Do you know what a landscaper sets out to do? He alters the contour of what he is given, adding to it things of beauty and depth in order to improve not only the appearance, but the general well-being of that which he works with. God is doing this in our lives with his Word. He sometimes has to smooth out some rough spots in us - at other times, he has to dig deeper so some things will take solid root.
The Word is a powerful tool in the hands of a skilled landscaper such as the Holy Spirit. When we listen first, allowing ourselves to be lead in our actions, we find the follow up is quite different than we imagined! It is like when I go to the subject-matter-expert in a particular industry - if I listen intently to what they are teaching, I get a different perspective on the possibilities of what it is I will do with the tools they give me. God's Word is merely a tool in the hands of a skilled landscaper. Isn't it about time we allow a little landscaping in our lives to begin the transformation of barren ground which needs a little altering of its contours? Just askin!