…Be quick to listen, but slow to speak. And be slow to become angry, for human anger is never a legitimate tool to promote God’s righteous purpose. James 1:19b-20
When we are shuffling through the chaos of scattered times, being quick to speak tends to overrule the luxury of taking time to listen. Prioritizing listening over speaking and anger requires a different skillset than that which comes easy in unfamiliar times.
James’ main point in these verses stresses the need to tune in to the Holy Spirit. Anger and being quick to speak muffles the clarity and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. It matters what we’re playing in the conversations in our head.
Look again at a scripture covered early in this series.
Be diligent to understand the meaning behind everything you hear, for as you do, more understanding will be given to you. And according to the depth of your longing to understand, much more will be added to you. For those who listen with open hearts will receive more revelation. But those who don’t listen with open hearts will lose what little they think they have!
Our promptness to listen teamed with our longing to understand is at the heart of James’ direction concerning listening. Hearing audibly is mechanical. Listening to understand and gain knowledge, wisdom and revelation empowers us to promote God’s righteous purposes in our lives.
It is important that we also listen to what we hear ourselves speaking. Jesus taught that out of the abundance of our heart, the mouth speaks. We are the gatekeepers of our words. Whenever we hear ourselves speaking anger or anything contrary to God’s Word, our response should be to edit our heart so that our words line up with His. God’s a mover. He never changes but neither does He allow us to settle for familiar when He’s got fresh ways of growing us.
Listening deeper to our previous understanding of God’s Word requires that we remain open. In Acts 10-11 you will find the story of Peter’s original mindset of only reaching Jewish people with the Gospel. But the Holy Spirit challenged his mindset. It happened on the roof top at Simon’s house. God challenged Peter in broad daylight with a vision that shattered Peter’s understanding. Lesson learned, two days later he found himself at Cornelius’ house in a room full of Gentiles. Peter had never imagined preaching the Gospel to Gentiles. Nor was he prepared when God poured out the Holy Spirit on them just as He had done at Pentecost. Study this game changer experience and you’ll realize that God always has ideas and revelation beyond our understanding.
Listening is not just about catching up on whatever everyone else knows about God. Listening is about opening our heart to new ways of God using us for His Kingdom’s purpose.