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. . . . If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. (James 1:19-20, 26, NLT)
Yaakov is teaching us that it does not matter how kosher we may appear, if we let wickedness proceed from our mouths we are walking treyf. The ability to be silent even when we are angry, when we think we know better than others, and when we know a secret about another demonstrates self-control that is in alignment with the will of God.
Silence makes us honorable in overt and hidden ways – with other people and with God alone. For example, you may never be thanked for not blowing up at a family member when you were frustrated (if you’re silent he/she may never even know you were angry), but if this self-control is a consistent lifestyle you will be known by that family member as trustworthy. Heaven will rejoice each and every time you refuse to be self-indulgent in anger even when the whole world is unaware. In time, the world will know you as one who refrains from such common outbursts. This is what Yaakov is teaching us: with religion being the outward expression of inner values, it can only be pure when our speech (and action) reflects those values. If it does not, our religion is of no avail.
May we exercise our ears more than our mouths. May we exercise our hearts and minds more than transient emotions. May our religion be recognizable by our silence in a screaming world.