Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry – that sounds nearly like human wisdom. What does this mean in this apostolic context? The apostle talks about strengthening and preserving our new life in Christ even under pressure and in temptations. Does he now continue by giving run-off-the-mill advice? The words of this holy scribe hint at something bigger than that. He admonishes us to be quick to listen to the word of truth. We should not give much attention to the temptations and sinful enticing, but rather to the word, that brings forth faith and saves us.
It’s not the best students, who listen and learn today and tomorrow want to be teachers already. For this the word is far to rich and meaningful. You can’t master it so quickly – if ever. Concentrate on being a scholar of the word. Let the word find root in you before you open your mouth and wait for it to bear fruit and loosens your tongue to talk avidly. If you become a preacher too soon, your resource might just dry up too quickly. We know the rule: Quick words, quick sins and quick condemnation. We have two ears for God’s word, yet only one shut mouth – and that’s to be opened by the Holy Spirit for proper speech and wholesome teaching.
The last part: “be slow to become angry” teaches us that we should not be turned away from the godly word and truth by our passions and easy anger of the old Adam in us. This obstructs the righteousness God is creating in those reborn by his truthful word.
Almighty Lord and God – you protect all those, who trust in you. Without your grace we can do nothing and without it we are nothing. Grant us your mercy in richest measure so that by your doing we might think what is right and through your power do it too – through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Keep me from saying words, that later need recalling; Guard me lest idle speech, May from my lips be falling; But when within my place, I must and ought to speak, Then to my words give grace, Lest I offend the weak. (Johann Hermann 1585-1647; tr Catherine Winkworth 1827-78)
This is a rather free translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s devotion for Tuesday after the fourth Sunday after Easter: Cantate. It is found on Pg. 189 in Lob sei Dir ewig, o Jesu! (Eternal Praise to you o Jesus!) edited by A. Schuster and published in the Freimund Verlag, Neuendettelsau 1949.