Acting in the middle

James 1:19-27

There’s a poem by Kipling that begins with “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…” that could well apply to the current state of the world. Social media reflects the fear, anger, and impatience of the people who post and those who argue with them.

James offers a different way of acting in perilous times. We should be SLOW to speak and SLOW to anger. That’s hard when we are bombarded with contradictory information and behaviors. There is a reason James starts with “quick to hear.” Hearing should be first. Analyzing what we hear, through the Word, through prayers, and in today’s world, through the expert physicians, must also precede anything we say. And even when we do speak, we must control our words and our attitudes. Bridling a horse helps the rider control its direction; bridling our tongues means we direct what we say so that our words leads to godly righteousness.

James does not stop with what we say. He emphasizes that our actions must match our words. We have to do the work of caring for others, especially in times of crisis. That care may look different depending on the situation, but the heart of the matter is that doing the work of God begins with considering others as more important than ourselves (Ephesians 5:21; Galatians 5:14; Matthew 22:37-39). James says that when we persevere in actively working out the wisdom of God through the trials, we will be blessed in the doing, in spite of the chaos that surrounds us.

James 1:19-20


(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!—

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