6 Biblical Listening Skills: LISTEN

Note: The following post is adapted from Spiritual Friends.

We can use the acrostic LISTEN to remind ourselves of basic components of competent biblical listening.   

  • L—Loving Motivation: Proverbs 21:13
  • I—Intimate Concern: Galatians 6:1-3; Colossians 4:6; James 3:17-18
  • S—Slow to Speak: Proverbs 18:13; James 1:19
  • T—Timing: Proverbs 15:23; 25:11
  • E—Encouraging: Hebrews 3:7-19; 10:24-25
  • N—Need-Focused Hearing: Ephesians 4:29

Loving Motivation: Proverbs 21:13

“If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry and not be answered” (Proverbs 21:13). Relationally competent spiritual friends are motivated, like God, to listen for, hear, care about, empathize with, and respond to the hurts of the wounded. Neither secular theory nor human curiosity drives careful listening. Care does. Concern does. Compassion does.  

Intimate Concern: Galatians 6:1-3; Colossians 4:6; James 3:17-18

Paul (Galatians 6:1-3; Colossians 4:6) emphasizes the humble, spiritual, gentle, and gracious concern that ought to accompany spiritual listening. James (James 3:17-18), in a context sandwiched between the use of the tongue and the cause of quarrels, explains that true wisdom for living flows from a heart that loves people and peace, a heart that is considerate and submissive, impartial and sincere. 

Slow to Speak: Proverbs 18:13; James 1:19

James is quite emphatic. “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Solomon explains why. “He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13). Relationally competent spiritual friends hear their friend’s story before they tell God’s story to their friend.

Timing: Proverbs 15:23; 25:11

“A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23). “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). “Apt” means fitting, timely, given in due season—words said at the right time, in the right way, for the right reason because of right listening. 

Exploring: Hebrews 3:7-19; 10:24-25

Both Hebrews 3 and 10 speak of encouraging and clearly imply the necessity of exploratory listening before profitable encouraging. Before encouraging, spiritual friends tune into, see, listen, and hear what is going on in the heart of their spiritual friend. 

Need-Focused Hearing: Ephesians 4:29

To benefit others, spiritual friends listen for specific needs. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). Spiritual friends ask, as they listen, “What is it that my spiritual friend most needs? What are his hurts and wounds? What are her fears and scars? What wholesome words relate to her specific situation? Specifically, given his situation, what words will benefit him?”

Join the Conversation

Using the LISTEN acrostic, rate yourself on each of the six aspects of listening. How could you improve your spiritual listening skills, especially in those areas where you rated yourself lower?

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