Studying James 1.19-25 this week led me to think long and hard about the virtue of good listening – specifically listening to God’s Word (1:22; cf Ecc. 5.1-2, Prov 10.19, etc). It is so hard to be a good listener in our noisy and entertainment-driven culture in which someone (or something!) is always talking. We can enjoy movies and music, but we should also try to enjoy these things in moderation because excessive indulgence slowly kills our skill of listening (to the Word). Here are a few great quotes I found on listening which I thought our readers would appreciate.
“Today…much ‘church work’ makes congregants so busy that they have scant time and little capacity for listening. …Loving God and other people depends on getting to know them intimately by listening to them ‘with the ear of the heart.'” (Schultz, 78-9).
An old monastery had these words carved into the stone wall: “Do not speak unless you can improve upon the silence.” (Schultz, 78)
“The Word comes not to the chatterer but to him who holds his tongue. … Silence is the simple stillness of the individual under the Word of God. We are silent before hearing the Word because our thoughts are already directed to the Word, as a child is quiet when he enters his father’s room.” (Bonhoeffer, 79).
“The listener is not permitted to suppose that the preached words are for anyone other than himself or herself.” (Peterson, 11).
“Doubtless, no one can be a true disciple of God, except he hears him in silence…. He (James) would…have us to correct and restrain our forwardness, that we may not, as it commonly happens, unseasonably interrupt God, and that as long as he opens his sacred mouth, we may open to him our hearts and our ears, and not prevent him to speak.” (Calvin on James 1.19).
“When we have heard a sermon, we should look up to Christ and beg his blessing upon it that it may not return void, but accomplish the work for which it was sent and be powerful and efficacious for the good of our souls.” (Love, 147).
“When we come to the Word preached, we come to a matter of the highest importance; therefore we should stir up ourselves and hear with the greatest devotion. … The devil is not one who refuses to come to church; he attends, but not with any good intent; he takes away the Word from men,” so “regard” and “remember” the Word. (Watson, 16-17).
“Why are we such poor listeners? Today one of the major reasons is that we are so busy. Our busyness substitutes frenzy for conversation and wrecks our relationships. It fills our calendars and empties our lives of the ability to listen to anything that turns us away from our little gods.” (Hughes, 64).
“As real hearers we are indeed taken prisoner by this Word. We surrender to it. Inevitably, therefore, the totality of our existence is evidence of what we have heard.” (Barth, CD II.2, p. 365).
“It is required of those that hear the word preached that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the scriptures, receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.” (WLC 160).
“Solae aures sunt organa Chistiani – The ears alone are the organs of a Christian man, for he is justified and declared to be a Christian, not because of the works of any member but because of faith.” (Luther, quoted in Webb, p. 144)
“Be quick to listen and deliberate in answering” (Sirach 5:11).