The Effort of Righteous Listening

            How often in conversations do you really paying attention to what the other person is trying to say? Yet, before he has finished speaking, your response has been decided and you’re just itching to get it out. In those moments, your intent is merely to respond. However, as God’s children, we should instead be listening with the purpose of understanding. [i] Proverbs 1:7 (ESV) reads, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.” The greatest support you can ever receive is the spiritual guidance that God provides to those who diligently seek Him. If God’s message is to be understood, then it has to be listened to with righteous love. (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

            In John 3, the Pharisee Nicodemus, opened his heart to Jesus and sought to listen to His teachings. He told Nicodemus that he must be baptized in order to join the kingdom of God. Nicodemus didn’t understand what Jesus meant at first, but he chose to ask questions over becoming  obstinate, or discouraged. Nicodemus was able to listen because he put growing in his relationship with God above all else. Thus, with each question asked, Jesus’ responses reciprocated the depth of intimacy that Nicodemus sought. In John 3:11-21, Jesus explains to Nicodemus that the Pharisees have yet to believe His teachings because of the attitude in their hearts.

            The Pharisees listened to Jesus with the intent to trap and condemn Him because of their self-prideful mindset.[ii] They had decided in their hearts that they were right and Jesus was wrong before they even truly listened to what He had to say. In John 7:51 Nicodemus speaks out against this by saying, “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?”

            James 1:19 reads, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Growth with God doesn’t happen unless we are acting on His teaching. Every interaction is an opportunity to righteously listen. Children of God can simply talk about their desire to love Him, or they can choose to truly listen and put their faith into action. Speech combined with actions, are the key to righteous listening.


[i] I do want to note that whether or not the things we are listening to are righteous, applicable to us or the situation at hand, and factual, is an entirely different matter. But we won’t be able to make that determination if we are trying to understand what is being communicated.

[ii] Examples of the Pharisees attitude with Jesus during their interactions with Him are in: Matthew 15:10-12, Matthew 16:1, Mark 8:11, Luke 20:19-21