Open to Reason
by Jacob Hudgins
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere”(James 3:17).
James teaches us that God’s wisdom is “open to reason.”
The word means to be “easily persuaded, with the implication of being open to reason or willing to listen”(Louw-Nida). It is translated “reasonable”(NASB), “considerate”(NIV), and “willing to yield”(NKJV). To be wise according to God’s standard, I must be able to listen to and consider things besides my own thoughts. This prompts two questions.
Can others talk to me? Do others know that I am willing to listen to them—to really listen? Many factors play into this. One is the simple self-absorption that keeps us from really listening when others speak because we are waiting to speak our minds, which is more important than what they have to say. If my mind is wandering, eyes darting, and mouth yawning while others speak, am I truly open to reason?
But more commonly, others feel they cannot talk to us because we are unable to control our anger and emotions at what they say. When the wicked Nabal shames David’s men, one of Nabal’s servants says about him, “he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him”(1 Sam 25:17). Talking to such a man won’t do any good; he is not open to reason. This is why James encourages us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger”(James 1:19). We need to be able to listen without constantly speaking or flying off the handle. We need time to absorb what is being said and fashion an acceptable and God-honoring response. What do my co-workers—my children—my brethren think of whether they can talk to me? Am I “open to reason”?
Can I admit when I am wrong? “Open to reason” also implies that people can reason with us and that we are “easily persuaded.” I may begin a conversation convinced that I am correct. If I am open to reason, I may finish that conversation completely different. You can convince me! I will listen! I will hear! And if I am wrong, I will say so. That is part of being “open to reason.”
Far too often there is a temptation to defend things we have done or said in the past, statements that are part of the “company line” on a certain issue, or morally suspect behavior in people close to us. Are those topics closed and off-limits? Or do we have the courage to listen with an eye to God and his will—and own where we have been blind or mistaken? Can we be convinced?
Wisdom from above demands that we remember that we are not always right and that others can help us to see our blind spots. Are you open to reason?