“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20 (NIV)
There is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is just allowing words to go through your ears. Listening is an active process where you are considering the words being spoken and taking them to heart. Your response should be geared toward the message that another person conveyed to you. A conversation is defined as a message received, that message is processed, and an appropriate response is issued. In a world of texting, emails, and cell phones we want instant gratification. We want to say what we want our way, but this is not God’s way. God wants us to be good listeners. He wants us to listen to others and to Him. Everyone has something to contribute in a conversation. Ecclesiastes 3:7b tells us that there is “…a time to be silent and a time to speak.”
In the process of listening, we must guard ourselves against anger. James mentions this in the verses above. Often we hear about things in the world or in the church and get angry. This anger brings us to the brink of actions that are contrary to God’s purpose in the world. In our premature anger, we can say or do things that we later regret. We should be quick to listen to the entire matter that is presented by other people. Even more so, we should be quick to listen to the voice and discernment of God so that we can properly respond. A wise man once said, “If you are always talking, then you will only repeat what you already know. But if you listen, you will have everything you currently know and learn what someone else knows at the same time.”
One time in particular when we want to guard our words is when we are in the presence of God. Solomon wrote, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2). Sometimes we are so busy talking that we miss God’s voice. We can miss His written Word as well.
In Job 34:3-4, Elihu said, “For the ear tests words as the tongue tastes food. Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.” Let’s listen, taste the words given and give a proper response from God. Let’s listen to others so we can listen to God and be used of God. Listening is a learned trait.