We live in a noisy world where everyone wants to be heard. Avenues like social media have given everyone a voice, but has caused us to often stop listening and even think selfishly. Our culture wants us to think: ‘It’s all about me.’ Scripture, on the other hand, teaches something completely different. We need to listen and serve.
My wife and I have two kids under 5. When they’re awake, they contribute the most to the household volume. They enjoy singing, talking, and screaming. Sometimes they’re main objective is simply repeating everything they hear. There’s never a dull moment.
No matter what though, one thing remains true – they want to be heard. In fact, they will repeat themselves, and get louder, UNTIL someone listens.
As adults, we’re not always so obvious about it, but we enjoy being heard as well. Why speak if no one is listening? I felt that way back in 2012, when my blog had a grand total of 187 page views (for the entire year). I wanted someone to read what I wrote – and, preferably, more than a half a person a day.
As we get older (and hopefully wiser) we begin to understand that it’s not all about being heard. In fact, listening is actually more important (and more helpful) for us. James, the brother of Jesus, knew this 2000 years ago, and we have the privilege of letting his words remind us today.
The Book of James is one of my favorite letters in the New Testament. I’m often told people enjoy it because it’s so practical, but truth be told, I enjoy it because it pushes the Church into missional success. James doesn’t just give us good ideas, he defines what faith in action looks like.
James first says to listen.
19 …Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.James 1:19-20 (NIV)
We’ve all been told, ‘If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.’ The truth of that saying is found in James’ letter to the Church. Slow down, and listen before we allow our opinions and thoughts to provoke us.
And according to James, the best way to make sure we listen first, is to implant God’s Word in our lives. But not just to listen and read God’s Word, but to actually put that Word into action.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.James 1:26-27 (NIV)
We have to control our tongue, look after those in need, and pursue holiness.
It’s worth noting that holiness isn’t a list of things we can and can’t do, rather allowing God’s word (and not our culture) to define who we are as people. I see this playing out today as pursing selflessness instead of selfishness – it’s not all about me, it’s about serving those around me.
If we practice listening and serving, selflessness becomes so natural.
So, if I were to summarize James here, I would say that James wants us to avoid anger and pursue holiness, by doing something pretty simple:
Shut up and serve.
How do you listen and serve in a noisy world? Does it work?
Share with me in the comment section below (or on social media). You never know how you may encourage someone else!