Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak

I’m not sure how many times I’d repeated in my head (or deserved to have someone say to me), “quick to listen, slow to speak.” This of course is part of James 1:19 and is a simple directive, b it sure is hard. We all want to be heard. We’re tempted to think ourselves much smarter than we truly are and we want to give our two cents. But we don’t stop there, adding additional cents and finding ourselves in debt in the conversation. Having given so much speech, we owe the other person some time of listening.

Tell me if these situations are familiar to you–either as the victim or perpetrator:

  • One person in a conversation does not seem to be really listening, probably because he uses the time when the other person is talking only to think about what he’ll say next.
  • A person uses the story of another merely as a platform to tell another story that she thinks is much greater than the first.
  • Someone cuts you off to either agree, disagree, or correct the opinion that he actually did not hear since he interrupted you in the first place.
  • You have a friend who loves to tell you all about what is going on in her life, but has no time to listen to you.
  • You put your foot in your mouth because you jumped to conclusions without waiting for all the facts or because you didn’t wait for someone to finish.

It is so easy for us to fall into these traps. Embarrassingly, it is easy to complain when someone else does it, but then go off and do those very same things. But we need to evaluate ourselves, be humble in our relationships and conversations, and follow this command. The text goes on to say we should be “slow to anger” and being a person with patience who is slow to speak is key. I find it hard to imagine a hothead–someone quick to anger–as also someone who is a great listener and very humble.

On the flip side, don’t you find yourself drawn to people who listen to you? Who are patient as you speak and ask you questions? This can be a great witness for Christians to their neighbors, especially in a frantic world that is hurried and where we’re having more online relationships or transactional relationships. If you are one who listens, you’ll be taking a step to show the love and care God has for us to someone who may really need it.

This is also a lesson we need to make sure to apply to those God has placed close to us, those about whom we care most. That group is often one that sadly gets our worst, along with our best, since we see them so much. We can be so sure we already know them well enough, so we jump to conclusions, cut them off, or tune out. But we need to slow down.

If you need to be quick, be quick to listen. Give yourself time to really hear people. Take time to think. Then be slow to respond.

Double Dipping a Bonhoeffer Quote for James 3

James 3 is the chapter known for its passage on taming the tongue. We often associate this phrase with restraining the tongue, keeping it from doing harm. I like to think of it in the positive, as well. We should harness our speech to do with it the great goods that God equips us for. Certainly we need to keep from hurtful language, but speech has so much power for good. We get a sense in the passage that complete control over the tongue is impossible, but that should not prevent us from faithfully working on this area of our life.

I already used this quote once before, but I like it so much and it applies so well to this idea of taming the tongue for good. So forgive my repetition.

But God has put his Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.
Bonhoeffer, Life Together

James 3 is also the text for our focus passage this week, so I hope you take a look. I think we tend to underestimate the power and influence of our own speech and maybe this week you can go through some of the questions and reflect on the role that speech has in your own life–for good or for bad.

A Delight of Reading the Whole Bible in a Year

I have not had as much chance to post this past week as I have been way at a conference. Several of the speakers delivered fantastic sermons, which is always a benefit of these events. But I had a special delight this year as I heard from books like Daniel, Ezra, Ephesians, and Timothy. As the preachers delivered the messages I was so much more familiar with the scriptures that they were using.

But that isn’t to say that I now know enough. In reading though the Bible this past year I am instead primed to learn more and learn better. I loved knowing the context of the stories, remembering conversations had or posts written about those passages, and being challenged in new ways on what I thought I knew.

When they stepped back to give context, I was right there with them. The texts were still fresh in my mind, much closer to the surface, and much more accessible for the Spirit to use in my hearing and responding to the Word. It wasn’t like I was having to watch the same movie over again. It wasn’t at all tired or boring. The Bible is a living Word and I could see that as I had the chance to sit and receive it.

I pray you find that same delight as you grow more familiar with it and continue to read and re-read and read again God’s Word.