2398) Listen Before You Speak

Listen First Project

By Randy Alcorn, posted June 24, 2020, at:  http://www.epm.org


     This is the second in a series of Scripture readings on the impact and importance of our words.

     The following verses remind us of the importance of actually listening and reading before we respond, both in person and online.  Sadly, many of us don’t know how to read, pay attention, listen, or think critically, and it shows in our conversations and online interactions.

     It takes humility to truly listen before we respond.  May God grant us that humility, and may we all be “quick to listen, slow to speak”—to the glory of God.

Listen to the Counsel of Others:

Proverbs 15:31  —  He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.

Proverbs 15:32  —  He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.

Proverbs 19:20  —  Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.

Proverbs 22:17-18  —  Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips. 

Listen before You Respond:

Proverbs 18:13  —  Those who answer before they listen are foolish and disgraceful.

Proverbs 29:20  —  Do you see a man who speaks in haste?  There is more hope for a fool than for him.

James 1:19  —  Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Don’t Talk Too Much:

Proverbs 10:19  —  When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.

Proverbs 17:27  —  A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.

Proverbs 18:2  —  A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.

Proverbs 17:28  —  Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.

Proverbs 11:22  —  A man of understanding holds his tongue.

Weigh Your Words, and Think before You Speak (or Type):

Proverbs 15:28  —  The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.

Proverbs 12:18  —  Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 13:3  —  He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.

James 1:26  —  If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

Make Your Words Timely and Appropriate:

Proverbs 15:23  —  A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word.

Proverbs 20:3  —  It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.

Proverbs 15:1  —  A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

     Here are some related thoughts from others:

     Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in Life Together:

The first service one owes to others involves listening to them.  Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them.  God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives us God’s word, but also lends us God’s ear.  We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them.  So often Christians think that their only service is always to have to “offer” something when they are together with other people.  They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. 

     Writing about the importance of listening, Dane Ortlund says this:

Dozens of times today, someone will start speaking to you.

A child, wanting something to eat.  A co-worker, touching base about an upcoming meeting.  A boss, offering a word of correction.  A friend, returning a call.  A parent, battling loneliness.  A pastor, opening the Scripture.  A neighbor, saying hello while walking the dog.  A spouse, reflecting on the day.  A confidante, needing counsel.  A relative, boring us with life details.

In each case we can either deflect or engage.  The exhortation to be “quick to hear” and “slow to speak”( James 1:19) isn’t just a handy tip for life.  It’s where the gospel takes us.  Why would we not be lifelong listeners, quick to hear?

This means we’ll start more sentences with “I see your point” rather than “But . . .”  More responses of “That must be hard” rather than “Something similar happened to me . . .”  Often it will mean sitting in silence together rather than generating words just to fend off the awkwardness of quiet.

Not only in private dialogue but also in public discourse, Christians of all people should be famous for their listening.  If love is the defining mark of Christians, shouldn’t listening be a fundamental mark of how we interact with others—in political dialogue, in discussing race, in sorting through economic issues, in witnessing to our faith?

We sin.  But God doesn’t shout us down.  He gently listens to our deepest need, and meets us there, at the cross.

The central calling of the Christian life is to love.  A neglected way to love is by listening.  The grace of God in Jesus Christ takes us there.



Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  Amen.