Here is the question before us today: What are you focusing on currently? I am beginning a three-part series on James 1:19-27 entitled Essential Guidelines for the Follower of Christ. James 1:19-27 gives three essential guidelines for the follower of Christ. As Christ-followers, we have guidelines that we must seek to live by and put into place. These guidelines are crucial to our Christian walk, and we must stay focused on the essential guidelines, or they will no longer be essential.
Essential Guideline #1 – Watch yourself
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.”
James 1:19–21, NLT
James calls all Christ-followers to watch themselves by watching their attitude. If we are not careful, we will watch everything and everyone else but ourselves. We will not be slow to speak or quick to listen, or slow to anger. If we are not careful, we will find ourselves doing the opposite of what James says we should do.
The key in this scripture text is that our hurrying, which leads to anger, does not produce the righteousness of God. The Word that James used here for “righteousness” means “adherence to what a moral standard requires.” This word is used thirty-five times in the New Testament, and Matthew records Jesus using this word seven times in his Gospel account. James uses the word “righteousness” the same way Matthew does in Matthew 6:33.
Matthew records Jesus’ most famous sermon, The Sermon on the Mount, and in that sermon, Jesus tells those following him to “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give…[them] everything…[they] need.”
James goes on to give his readers additional instruction on how they are to watch themselves. He tells them to “get rid of,” which means to “take off” all filth and evil and receive with humbleness the Word of God planted in their hearts.
The word James uses for “plant” means “to be permanently established in, either by nature or by others.” The only way this happens is by watching yourself by staying in the Word of God. My encouragement for you today as you seek to “watch yourself” is to remain in the Word of God and allow it to guide and lead you.
Thoughts produce acts, acts produce habits, and habits produce character.
In the next edition, we will look at Essential Guideline #2.
 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 398.