SWIFT TO HEAR, SLOW TO SPEAK
Two weeks ago our “News & Views” essay posed some questions for Christians about the church. Last week we asked some questions concerning New Testament Christianity. The two essays were intended to complement each other and to allow us to check up on ourselves to see just how well acquainted we are with New Testament teaching about the church and the distinctiveness of New Testament Christianity. How did you do on those questions?
If as you read through those two articles you felt that your knowledge of the vital matters mentioned was somewhat lacking, what do you intend to do about it? Some may decide to do nothing about their lack of knowledge in these areas. Some may feel that they do not have time to do anything about the matter. Some may feel that it does not really make any difference how much one knows about these things.
For the person who wants to improve his or her knowledge of the things talked about in the two previous “News & Views,” as well as in all other areas of Bible teaching, James has some succinct and sage advice. He says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). Let us focus on the first two items: “swift to hear, slow to speak.”
The person who is lacking in knowledge in any area of life needs to listen more and talk less. Sadly, some of those who demonstrate the least knowledge and understanding of even basic truths and principles of God’s word are the ones who want to do most of the talking. Yet, to learn and to grow in knowledge, one must be willing to close his mouth and open his ears—really open his ears to what is being said.
One begins the process of listening (and therefore of learning) by disciplining himself to take up God’s word, the Bible, and begin to read and study it in a systematic fashion, and to do this on a continuing regular basis. One cannot “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18) without regular, persistent personal Bible reading and Bible study. One will remain a spiritual infant, never able to digest the “meat/solid food” of God’s word (Hebrews 5:12-14) without a willingness to spend some quality time in personal Bible study.
The process of listening (and therefore of learning) can continue by regularly attending classes at the local church and availing oneself of the knowledge of well-informed Bible teachers. It is to be understood that the church will be one of the New Testament order, not a church of human origin, and that the teacher will be a man of fidelity to the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, one who himself is “grounded and steadfast in the faith” (Colossians 1:23), and able to impart an understanding of God’s word to those who will be “swift to hear, slow to speak.”
The process of listening (and therefore of learning) is further enhanced by hearing the word of God preached regularly (Sunday morning and Sunday night) by a faithful and able gospel preacher. Ideally, the listener should have his Bible open before him, have a notebook in which to record the preacher’s main points and scripture references, and listen with an open mind, absorbing the truths being proclaimed. Over a period of several weeks and months, the faithful preacher will cover a wide range of Bible teaching, and the regular listener will gain a considerable amount of Bible knowledge.
The late, great gospel preacher, G. C. Brewer, once made the comment that if it were in his power to do so, he would have every member of the Lord’s church sit at the feet of a faithful and able gospel preacher every night for six months to hear the word of God proclaimed. Just think how well informed in the Scriptures one would become and how well one would do on the questions of the two previous essays if this were the case!
Beyond the matter of growing in one’s knowledge and understanding of God’s word, James’ formula of “swift to hear, slow to speak” has application elsewhere. Think how our home life would improve if husbands and wives, parents and children were “swift to hear, slow to speak.” Think how much a student’s grades would improve if James’ counsel was followed. Think how much one’s job performance would improve if one did more listening and less talking.
God gave us two ears and one tongue. That tells us something about the ratio of listening to talking. Now, let us remember the rest of the verse from James: “. . . slow to wrath.” Let us begin to apply this last admonition by not becoming angry or taking offense because we are reminded to talk less and listen more!
April 25, 2017
April 26: Green Hill Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, TN
May 7: Bethany Church of Christ, Franklin, KY (Great Day In May)
May 9: Old Philadelphia Church of Christ, Warren County, TN