The Big Idea: Learn five biblical reasons why listening is a scriptural concept not a secular technique. Excerpted from Spiritual Friends.
Listening carefully to people’s words is biblical, not secular. Listen to what God’s Word teaches about listening to human words:
- Words Are Powerful
- Words Are Meaningful
- Words Convey Soul Messages
- Words Are Worthy of Soulful Attentiveness
- Words Reflect One of Two Life Interpretations
Words Are Powerful: Proverbs 18:21
“The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). That’s power. The tongue, says James, is a small body part with power far beyond its size (James 3:1-5a). “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire” (James 3:5b-6). That’s power. Listen carefully to the powerful, life and death words of your spiritual friends.
Words Are Meaningful: Proverbs 18:4; 20:5
“The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters” (Proverbs 18:4). “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5). Words carry the soul’s longings, beliefs, purposes, and feelings. Through careful, caring listening, you perceive the depth of the soul. Through active, accurate listening, you draw out the meaning of the soul—the hidden desires, convictions, goals, and emotions.
Words Convey Soul Messages: Psalm 39:1-3; Matthew 12:33-37
“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Spoken words flow out of the depths of the heart revealing the content of the heart. The good heart bears nourishing fruit conveyed by wholesome words, while the evil heart bears poisonous fruit conveyed by unwholesome words. If you want to know your spiritual friends, then listen skillfully to their words.
Words Are Worthy of Soulful Attentiveness: Proverbs 18:13; James 1:19
“He who answers before listening—that is his folly, that is his shame” (Proverbs 18:13). “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). The caring soul carefully listens to words spoken from the soul.
Words Reflect One of Two Life Interpretations: Job 42:7
“After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has’” (Job 42:7). Job and his three friends witnessed one situation, but derived two vastly different interpretations. The set of information involved Job’s life experience. The first interpretation consisted of the works, condemnation, cursing, and shame narrative of life inspired by Satan. The second consisted of the grace, faith, openness, and acceptance narrative inspired by God. According to God, Job got him right; Job’s friends got God all wrong.
Whenever you listen, you listen for three sets of stories. Listen for your spiritual friends’ life stories: listen attentively to what they’re saying about what they’re experiencing. Then listen to two possible interpretations of their stories. Listen attentively for signs of Satan’s narrative creeping in. Additionally, listen attentively to God’s narrative gaining dominance. These competing interpretive frameworks are at work in every life story.
Which of the five biblical principles of spiritual listening is most important in your ministry to others? Why?