Are You a Good Listener?

The Bible has something important to say about why every Christian should be a good listener, beginning with the fact that listening is the will of God. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).

Because a person can think about four times faster than an individual usually talks, the temptation arises to interrupt the speaker.  This will be done if it is perceived that something is about to be said that is not wanted, or if a predetermined end is anticipated.

There is something else. If a person listens primarily for facts rather than ideas when someone is speaking, if a person determines that what is being articulated is not worthwhile, if a person is prejudiced against certain words, names, or phrases, the conversation will be shut down, feelings will be hurt, something ugly will be blurted out, and the moment for ministry will pass.

God would have His people be gracious, and let a person finish speaking before there is a comment. Good manners are always appreciated by someone who is trying to communicate what is on their mind. The gospel exhortation is to be swift to hear. So Christian, learn to listen.

Listen in Order to be Fair. “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Prov. 18:13). It is within human nature to want to speak with someone who agrees. This is especially true when there is an emotional issue under discussion. Everyone wants an ally. Those who listen to the narrative are tempted to pass judgment on a matter after hearing only one side. That is neither fair nor wise. That temptation must be resisted for there really is two sides to every argument. The challenge is for a person to listen to both sides of the issue before drawing a final conclusion. 

Listen in Order to Learn. “And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them” (Deut. 5:1). Two people can dance together, and they can sing together, but they cannot talk at the same time and learn from one another. We must hear in order to learn. This is try in the physical realm, and it is true in the spiritual matters.

Listen in Order to Understand. It is a sad moment when a person speaks, and the other person listens, but does not understand what is being said. When this happens in human relationship there is misunderstand, anger, hurt feelings, fear, verbal retaliation, and much worse. In spiritual matters, there is an eternal repercussion.

Charles Spurgeon told the story of Jedidiah Buxton, the famous peasant, who could multiply nine figures by nine in his head. He was once taken to see a great English dramatist named David Garrick (Feb. 19, 1717 – Jan. 20, 1779) act. When he went back to his own village, Buxton was asked what he thought of the great actor and his doings. ‘Oh!’ he said, ‘he did not know, he had only seen a little man strut about the stage, and repeat 7,956 words.’ “Here was a want of the ability to appreciate what he saw, and the exercise of the reigning faculty to the exclusion of every other. Similarly, our hearers, if destitute of the spiritual powers by which the gospel is discerned, fix their thoughts on our words, tones, gestures, or countenance, and make remarks upon us which from a spiritual point of view are utterly absurd. How futile are our endeavors without the Holy Spirit!” Listen in order to understand Christian, by the discerning illumination of the Holy Spirit.

Listen in Order to Obey. One of the charges God had against His people was that they listen to His prophets, such as Ezekiel, but to no avail.  The people come, “and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. 32 And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not” (Ezek. 33:31-32).

Jesus said, “Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matt. 7:24-27).

Listen Slowly. Writer Charles Swindoll once found himself with too many commitments in too few days. He got nervous and tense about it. “I was snapping at my wife and our children, choking down my food at mealtimes, and feeling irritated at those unexpected interruptions through the day,” he recalled in his book Stress Fractures. “Before long, things around our home started reflecting the patter of my hurry-up style. It was becoming unbearable.

“I distinctly remember after supper one evening, the words of our younger daughter, Colleen. She wanted to tell me something important that had happened to her at school that day. She began hurriedly, ‘Daddy, I wanna tell you somethin’ and I’ll tell you really fast.’

“Suddenly realizing her frustration, I answered, ‘Honey, you can tell me — and you don’t have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly.” “I’ll never forget her answer: ‘Then listen slowly.'”  (Bits & Pieces, June 24, 1993, pp. 13-14.)

The question comes. Are you a good listener? Do you listen to God in order to obey His known will and do God’s work, God’s way? Do you respectfully listen to both sides of a controversy? Do you listen to godly counsel?

Jesus was a good listener. Jesus listened with love, and without prejudice. When the Syro-Phoenician woman cried out for help, Jesus listened. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of Davide; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil” (Matt. 15:21). When the woman persisted in her plea “Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour” (Matt. 15:28).

Jesus listened with an inquiring mind. Jesus often asked people questions. When Jesus came to a certain man with an infirmity for thirty-eight years laying by the Sheep Market in Jerusalem, he asked him, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (John 5:6). There are people who do not want to be made whole physically, or spiritually. Jesus wanted to know what was in the heart of the man. Then, in matchless grace, “Jesus said unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (John 5:8).

Jesus listened with patience. Jesus stopped to minister to the pressing pleas of the petitioner. One day as Jesus was leaving the city of Jericho with his disciples, followed by a great multitude, He passed by a blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus. When this son of Timaeus heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, “he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:46). Suddenly, Jesus stood still. He had heard the prayer of Bartimaeus and He stood still to listen. “Bartimaeus,” said Jesus. “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?” “The Blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, God thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole” (Mark 10:52). Immediately, Bartimaeus received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

Jesus listened with a desire in His heart to help. There were two thieves who were crucified with Christ on the day He died. One of the thieves railed at Jesus in the hour of death, indicating the hardness of the human heart. But the other thief gasped,Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42, 43).

Are you a good listener? Young people, do you listen with respect to your parents when they speak? Sinner, do you listen to God when He commands you to repent and be converted? Christian, do you listen like Jesus? It has been noted by many that God has given us two ears, and only one tongue that we might listen twice as much, and speak with care. May God enable His people to be a good listener.

“No one cares how much you know,
until they know how much you care.”

—Theodore Roosevelt

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