Let’s talk about listening. What comes to mind when you consider the topic?
I think about content. What should I listen to? What should I not listen to?
I think about source. Who should I listen to? Who should I not listen to?
I also think about the amount of information (duration). Unfortunately, we are trained daily to have a short attention span. We receive local and national news in sound bites. We read a scrolling news feed at the bottom of the program we are watching. We text. We email.
As usual, my limited viewpoint is inadequate. Jesus has a very different take on listening. In Luke 8:18, He instructs His disciples: “Be careful how you listen.”
What? How you listen? This doesn’t sound anything like my own questions. I asked: what? And who? And how much? I did not ask how.
Jesus is instructing His disciples about the state of their heart as He speaks to them. He emphasizes that we must be prepared to act on what we hear. It is not enough to agree intellectually with sound doctrine; we must put it into action in our daily life. Good listening in this context also includes meditating on the content. Think about it; chew on it; wrestle with it. Don’t listen superficially. Maybe this is why Jesus spoke in parables. For the “lazy listeners”, they would just sound like simple stories without any direct relation to our spiritual health. For those who listen well, however, they will impart true wisdom.
“Listening” today, in the context of Jesus’ statement, only sometimes includes using our ears. Certainly we should be active in our local church and receive (hear) good teaching there. We should also act on the message and meditate on its meaning. Much of our necessary listening, however, has nothing to do with our sense of hearing. God’s primary mechanism for speaking to us today is His living word, the Bible. We demonstrate good listening when we study the scripture daily and rigorously apply it to our lives.
How can you begin a journey of good listening? Start a Bible reading plan (YouVersion, for example). Read a passage. Study it. Ask questions. Look online and find a commentary. Join a small group. Pray for understanding. Turn off the television. Drive in silence and think about what you’ve read. Memorize a passage. Pick a favorite verse. I’m sure you can add to the list.
Here’s my final thought. Jesus wouldn’t tell us to be careful how we listen unless He had something to say to us. Listen well. He will speak.