Suggested Reading: Psalm 62: 1-12
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak—James 1:19
Have you ever thought of classifying listening as a Christian duty? The Apostle James helps us see it in this way. Some people are naturally good listeners; maybe it’s their quiet nature or their understanding and compassionate heart, or the fact that they love to hear people’s stories and are willing to put themselves aside for a bit in order to connect to others.
Some people are not very good at doing that. Some don’t have a desire to not be the center of attention. They are not good at listening and cannot resist bringing the conversation back to themselves or jumping in, commenting, interrupting, offering suggestions or advice before we have a chance to fully express ourselves or get our thought out. People who are poor listeners often make us feel unimportant, devalued, and frustrated.
Listening is more than an art or skill we need to acquire, more than an attractive, godly characteristic and attitude, it is a Christian duty to listen to others. Think about it, when you have a problem or something you need to talk over, you don’t call the person who has poor listening skills and a short attention span do you? Of course not. You call that person who is a good listener, who falls in line with that adage, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason: so that we would listen twice as much as we talk.” After all, your life is complicated and troubled enough without having the additional stress of trying to tell your story. Explain your situation, or what you are feeling or experiencing without someone interrupting or knowing they are not connected with you in the conversation.
It was Ernest Hemingway who said, “when people talk, listen completely. Meaning listen with your whole self, attentively. When we listen completely to others there is so much we will hear that we would otherwise miss. I would have to believe this is one of the traits of Jesus that made people flock to him. In addition to being a likeable guy he was a great listener. He knew (and still knows) how to listen completely. When people starting talking to Jesus they had his complete attention for however long they needed it. He was someone they felt they could pour their heart out to and he would actually hear them out. Yes, he had a practical solution, a fix for their woes, the answer to their emptiness and need; but he did not cut them off mid-sentence, he waited until they had emptied their heart and soul. They didn’t even know by listening he had begun addressing their deepest need to be heard.
James helps us see listening in a new way. He writes it as a command from the Lord, then helps us see it is a ministry of care to our fellow human being also. Listening to others also says we are concerned about them, they are relevant, and important, which is the same message we get from God when he listens to us: he cares about us, we are important. We matter. Our life matters. Whatever we have on our mind and heart matters to him. God has uncountable thoughts towards us and he wants to hear our thoughts as well.
I’m reminded of the story about two college students, one was struggling in the class and the other making high marks, who had the occasion to sit next to one another during a lecture. The student who was struggling looked over and his classmate and noticed she was not taking any notes at all. While he frantically made note after note, she sat quietly, focused on the professor’s words. At the end of the class, as everyone was getting ready to leave. He leaned over and asked her how she was doing in the class. Her response was “very well, actually.”
Curious, he continued “he sure can fire things at you quickly. How do you remember everything he says? It’s just that I noticed you didn’t take any notes during the lecture.”
“It’s simple” she said, “I’m a good listener.”
Apparently, listening is not only encouraging, not only a way to minister to others, not only healing affirming, appreciated, and respectful, along with our Christian duty, it apparently also serves us in other areas of our life. Let’s Pray
Dear God, Jesus was and continues to be our perfect example of what a listening ear should be. Just as we strive in so many other godly disciplines and virtues, let us also strive to have the characteristic of listening and in that way also fulfill our Christian duty. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.