I was on the phone with my wife and the conversation went like this…
Holly: “Jonathan…are you hearing me?”
Me: “Oh…wait…what did you say? I heard it, but I didn’t hear it!”
Holly: “Hmmmmph! I’ll say it again…try to hear me this time!”
I would venture to say that I am not the only husband to have experienced this conversation, nor am I only human being to have experienced the phenomenon of physically hearing words with my ears while completely not comprehending the meaning/message of what is being said.
We do this all the time. We hear, but we don’thear.
Funny…Jesus often issued a warning that went like this, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” In other words, we might have the physical capability of hearing words, but that doesn’t mean the message is being absorbed into our heart and life.
Jesus issues this warning in Luke 8 right after telling a parable about four different kinds of soil: a hardened path, rocky ground, thorns riddled earth, and good soil. Seed is sown in each, but for various reasons, in only takes root and grows in the good ground.
Luke 8:8b, “…and as he said these things, he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’”
What does Jesus mean?
Jesus actually goes on to explain the parable to his disciples in verses 9-15. He tells them that the seed, which is sown, is the Word of God and the four soils are representative of four groups of people who hear this Word, but only one group really hears. It is possible to listen to the Word of God without actually hearing it, and Jesus warns us that the consequences are eternally serious.
He closes with this admonishment in verse 18a, “Take care then how you hear…”
Whenever we have an opportunity to hear the Word of God, Jesus tells us to take care how we hear. Just because we have ears that function, and we use them to sit under the teaching/preaching of the Word, does not automatically guarantee that we are actively hearing. It is extremely important that we heed Jesus’ warning and instruction and pay special attention to how we are listening anytime we get to hear his Word.
So here are five brief thoughts on how we might take care in our hearing of the Word and listen with more than just our ears…
1. We must hear with our knees.
We should spend time on our knees in prayer before we hear the Word taught/preached. This prepares our hearts to truly hear from God and adjusts our attitude toward receptivity.
2. We must hear with our mind.
The Word of God renews our minds, calling us to conform our thinking to be inline with God’s instead of the world’s (Ro 8:5-8, 12:2). When we hear the Word of God taught, we should not “lean back” and passively listen for entertainments sake, but we should “lean into” the message and actively engage our minds.
3. We must hear with our heart.
God’s Word is not meant to feed the mind alone. A sermon should never be a mere intellectual exercise in theology, but it should challenge us on a heart level. Yes, the Word of God should engage our minds, but always for the purpose of transforming our heart, calling us to deeper affection for God and others.
4. We must hear with our hands.
In Matthew 7 Jesus says, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man…And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man…” Truly hearing Word renews our minds, transforms our hearts, and comes out through our hands. Whether or not we are actually hearing God’s Word is most easily seen through our actions.
5. We must hear with our feet.
The Word of God is the best news we will ever hear, and we are supposed to take that good news to others. Romans 10:15 declares, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” This changes how we listen to the Word preached, because we are no longer listening for us! This changes how we take notes or whether we actually take notes…because now we are listening in order to be able to re-preach the Word to the next person that needs to hear: perhaps our siblings, children, spouse, parents, friends, co-workers, or people we’ve yet to meet. All I know is that if I was being given a message of life and death that could save someone who was actively dying I would consume that message and relay it with haste!
We must take care how we listen! Jesus’ words are the words of eternal life (Jn 6:68) and he has called us to take those words to the very ends of the earth (Mt 28:19-20).
So I don’t want to be guilty of hearing God’s Word in the same way I have occasionally been guilty of hearing, but not hearing my wife.
I don’t want to hear without actually hearing.
As a matter of fact, I want to express my love through using the ears I have been given to actually, actively hear. So next time we sit under the preaching/teaching of the Word, let’s join together as believers and take care how we hear.
In the mean time, think I’m going to go call my wife and apologize.