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  • Kevin Hall

Be a Sponge, not a Faucet

…But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19b).

In discussing this verse, I’ve heard it said, “This is why God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we will listen twice as much as we talk!” That’s a good way to think about it.

Good bible students have a healthy curiosity. They are ‘quick to hear’, that is, they are eager to not only hear but to listen. In bible classes, they are attentive and engaged, absorbing God’s word like a sponge. They speak up when questioned and are ready to add to the discussion in such a way as to move the conversation forward. But they are ‘slow to speak’ in that they hold back, self-editing their comments to ensure that they add to and not detract from the topic at hand. And they are thoughtful and careful about the words they speak. We often see this attitude spill over into other areas of their lives: how they deal with their spouse and kids, their brethren, those in the world they come in contact with, their colleagues and bosses.

Then there are the faucets. They are the opposite: quick to speak and slow to hear. A would-be healthy curiosity is supplanted by a desire to be heard rather than to listen. The self-editing mechanism is either broken down or rusted from lack of use. Instead of adding to the conversation and moving it forward, they detract from the issue at hand, often inserting their own agenda, their ears closed to the words being expressed by others.

Consider what the apostle Paul says about our coming together as a congregation. In 1 Cor. 14, he tells the brethren in Corinth how they ought to handle the spiritual gifts they have been blessed with. The overall message is that things need to be done orderly and in such a way that everyone will be edified (vv. 26, 40). Note what he says in verses 18-19: ‘I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.’ Paul makes it clear that being selective about the words spoken so that the hearer can understand them is far more important than just the amount of words spoken.

We would be well served to heed the teachings of Paul. We no longer need the miraculous abilities to confirm the gospel message as those in Corinth were utilizing. But the idea of using our words to teach, to edify and to do so in an orderly fashion applies to the Lord’s church forever more. Let us never let our precious time together descend into meaningless chatter!

O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge—by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith (1 Tim. 6:20-21).

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