Learning to Listen

William C. Brownson

READ : James 1:19-21

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. (v. 19)

What a searching word Jesus gave us when he taught his disciples: “Take heed how you hear.” We usually think of hearing as something that just happens—you either hear or you don’t. But for Jesus, there are different ways of hearing. He’s urging, in effect, “Listen carefully!”

James is expressing here the same concern. “Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” He gives a high priority to listening, so that we truly hear.

Think how important that is in our everyday living. If you want to pass a test at school or do a good job at work you need to heed the instructions of your teacher or your boss. The best way to form and deepen friendships is to be an interested, caring listener. Don’t you find that your best friends are those who always give you a hearing ear?

But Jesus and James are talking about attention at the highest level—the art of listening to God. If it’s important to hear other people, how supremely urgent it must be to hear the living God!

I’m convinced that everything fresh, real, and deep in the Christian life begins with prayerful listening to God’s Word, and to the gentle whispers of his Spirit.


“Speak, Lord, for your servants want to listen.”