Words of Wisdom: The care in listening
August 25, 2019 (click here for PDF version)
Overarching theme: Living a year in God’s presence through the practice of following Jesus.
Instructions: When using this material as teacher, feel free to pick and choose the point you want to emphasis in the lesson. The format of the curriculum is designed to have an abundance of information in which to refer as desired.
Core Point: We are focusing on the words and actions of people as they follow Jesus as disciples. The salient point of this series is that as Christians we are called into community with other believers to be a holy nation representing the grace and love of God in the world by both word and deed.
Start point: The scripture focus is found in the Letter of James. This letter was written by James, the brother of Jesus, who became the leader of the Jerusalem church. The letter was probably written about 40–45 A.D. to Jewish Christians living outside Palestine. The theme of the letter calls the Christian to live by faith and be doers of God’s Word. It appears that the receivers of the letter were suffering persecution and living in poverty. They were in tremendous social and spiritual conflict while living in a worldly manner. Because of the challenges of the people, James encourages them to seek God’s wisdom and actively live their faith so the world sees their good deeds in Christ. James provides some practical ideas on how to live out faith.
Reflect on this Scripture:
James 1:19-21 (CEB)
19 know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry. 20 This is because an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness.21 Therefore, with humility, set aside all moral filth and the growth of wickedness, and welcome the word planted deep inside you—the very word that is able to save you. 22 You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. 23 Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. 24 They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. 25 But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do.
Questions to Ponder:
What jumps out at you from this passage?
What is the most important action to be ready to do first? Why?
In a conversation, how do you know how to respond wiser?
In the context of this passage, whether another person, God, or scripture, how is listening the same?
After listening, then what do you do?
What is “that word planted deep inside of you”?
What is the word that saves you?
In the Scripture for today, the basic thread is about listening. Listening to others, God, and God’s word as scripture. Listening is the action of being quiet and actively hearing the other person or words being spoken, then processing those words into an appropriate response. When a person truly listens to another, instead of thinking of a response during the other’s dialogue, then both the response and the relationship may take a different form. So many times in our discussions with people, we start formulating a rebuttal out of our own pre-conceived ideas, or even worse, our trigger points before we understand what message the person is trying to communicate. So ask questions to make sure you understand what the person is saying. When you ask questions, it shows a higher level of interest and the desire to truly understand the other person. Seek to understand before being understood. Active listening focuses on the other person, while speaking and anger focuses on the self. The same goes in your relationship with God. As you pray and read scripture, slow down, and hear the words. Think on those words and ask God questions for better understanding. Remember, the Spirit of God is working in you with words to speak and actions to take. Tap into that power that will assist you in your life to make a positive difference. After you understand, the next step is to do what is said.
You want to speak words of wisdom, then listen first. After listening, say and do!
Questions to Ponder for accountability in the group:
How can you take steps to listen better?
What do you need to do to stop getting so angry?
What do you need to do to tap into the power of God’s spirit that is in you?
Activity of for the life of a disciple:
1. Memorize and internalize this scripture: James 1:19 (NRSV)
“..Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry.”
2. This week, focus on truly listening to someone that you normally have a hard time listening too. After you focus and listen, then reiterate what that person said before you make your personal response. If you have a tendency to be quick to get angry, then take a moment to step away from the engagement, ask God for strength, and then re-engage after the feeling of anger settles down. Take steps to listen and not respond out of anger.