Good listeners

Submitted by martinleech on Mon, 15/03/2021 - 16:42

The apostle James writes in his letter 'everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry' (James 1:19, NIV) reminding us of the importance and value of being good listeners. We are so often the opposite of what James says - we are slow to listen and quick to speak; we pay little real attention to what others are saying and are in a rush to put forward our own views, opinions and arguments. We are quick to speak... You experience it in discussions where it seems people are speaking across each other or interrupting, not answering what has been asked or speaking at crossed purposes. You hear it in arguments - there is a connection, James says, between being slow to listen and quick to speak with anger. Social media fuels it as it is provides a means to speak without needing to listen - just look at the threads of so-called discussions and see how quickly they can descend into argument and verbal abuse.

How important listening is! We would do well to learn to be good listeners - active listeners who work at hearing what the other person is actually saying and trying to understand them. An American professor of the New Testament wrote in connection with this verse in James, "Listening is an art that is difficult to master, for it means to take an intense interest in the person who is speaking. Listening is the art of closing one’s mouth and opening one’s ears and heart."

All of this is of course true in how we should be with one another. But much more it is the case in how we should be with God. We need to listen to God, which means listening to His Word in the Bible. If we disdain to listen to the Bible then it is like saying to God that He means nothing to us, that He is not worth listening to. We would think it deeply disrespectful to be treated like that ourselves. The Bible warns us not to pay attention to godless and sinful words, so how appalling to put God's Word into that category and to say I will not listen to it. Rather, we should take an 'intense interest in the person who is speaking' - God Himself - and be 'quick to listen' to what He has to say to us, opening our ears and heart to God and to His Word.