Do you remember phone booths? These rectangular boxes once were located everywhere, so people could place a phone call while in public, yet have a private (or semi-private) conversation.
These days, phone booths are nowhere to be seen, and people will simply take a phone call anywhere and everywhere. This is perhaps symptomatic of a society that values talking more than listening (and maybe one that has forgotten manners, as well).
It doesn’t take a sociologist or a new study for us to know that we have more talkers than listeners nowadays. Almost everyone seems to have an opinion on almost everything, and we are eager to let others know it.
Consider social media, like Facebook. While the Bible tells us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19), social media rewards those who are quick to speak and quick to anger.
Whenever news or a controversy arises, social media tempts us to chime in with our own opinion before hearing from others, or before even knowing all the facts. The sooner you speak and the more strongly, the better chances you will get likes and shares. All of this is a recipe for trouble, and one Christians must resist getting drawn into.
The key to avoiding this speak-first, speak-fast pattern is simple: listen up. Christians must spend more time than we now do listening.
Let’s look at an example. When the subject of a hot social topic like abortion comes up, listen to the voices in the conversation. Consider how you could share the Light of the Gospel in that conversation, only after hearing others speak.
As we do this, we need to avoid selective hearing, in which we listen to only those voices with which we agree. To take a recent example, we could listen to the many voices of those criticizing Southern Baptists. Don’t simply dismiss an opinion because it is critical or different than yours. Hear what their complaints are and, if valid, see what God may be teaching you.
Next, we can consider listening to others, besides so-called experts and those big voices in the conversation. The great English statesman Edmund Burke once said that a half dozen grasshoppers chirping in a field can seem more numerous than thousands of cattle quietly chewing their cud in that same field. In other words, the loudest voices in a conversation often do not give an accurate picture of the total conversation.
Finally, we must test everything you hear in light of Scripture. It is ultimately God’s voice we are trying to discern and heed, as His followers. We ought to spend more time in Scripture and prayer than we do listening to talking heads on television.
So whether you struggle with being “quick to listen and slow to speak” on social media or with your own family at home, ask God to help you in this area. If each of us will listen up better, we will be better used by God.
“Speak Lord. Your servants are listening.”