Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. –James 1:19-20
We live in a world of talk. Talk, talk, talk. Speak, speak, speak. Ours is the age of talk radio (news talk, sports talk, money talk, self-help talk, car talk, I-just-want-to-talk talk), podcasts, tweets, and cell phones. Everyone, it seems, wants to be heard.
Speaking of cell phones, just today I was in line at one of my local Woods coffee spots and the gentleman in front of me was ordering a “spruce” something while talking to a buddy on his iPhone. The barista was more than gracious as the customer stopped and started his order apparently not able to put his other conversation on hold. (I like what another coffee house in Bellingham has done by posting a sign that says, “We’ll serve you once you hang up the phone.”)
We have become a culture full of talking heads regardless of where we find ourselves. And the chatter is deafening.
Into this noise come the words of James: “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak.” This exhortation is almost unintelligible to a culture intent on talking. We have it backwards: we are quick to speak, slow to hear.
But God would be the primary voice heard in the universe. He is the One who has much to say. He speaks, in the Bible, of the riches of His mercy in Christ. He broadcasts His forgiveness and love. He heralds the wonder of redemption. He calls us to repent and beckons us to draw near.
Am I listening?
I need to remember the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42. Luke offers us a helpful contrast in speaking and listening. Martha was frantically trying to make dinner preparations for Jesus and the disciples. I envision her running around the house uttering things under her breath like, “I can’t believe Jesus is here on such short notice—not to mention all his disciples—and I have to pull this dinner together.” And, “Why doesn’t Mary get in here and help me?” Unlike Martha, Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (10:39).
Not surprisingly, Martha gets a bit frustrated at Mary’s lack of effort with the event. So Martha does what we probably all would do under similar circumstances—she starts talking: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (10:40). We are not left to wonder which course of action Jesus commends. We see it in his gentle rebuke: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Mary was quick to listen and slow to speak. She knew when to be quiet. In a culture full of chatter I want to learn the discipline of silence so I can hear what the Lord wants to teach me.
It is wonder upon wonder that God is speaking. O, Lord, please tame my tongue and give me ears to hear.