This page from the Rule of St. Benedict, written 700 years ago sits in a showcase in an Abby in Melk, Austria. For the Benedictine monks, their Rule of Life begins with “Ausculta” which in German means, “LISTEN”. For centuries, those who seek wisdom have realized the importance of listening.
Rewind another 2900 years to hear Moses teach the Israelite people that before they enter the Promised Land they need to listen to God. “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” It’s a timeless wisdom; before we do anything of significance, listen to God.
When Peter, James and John stood on the Mount of Transfiguration, telling Jesus about their great idea of building tents to house Jesus, Moses and Elijah, a voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” Once again we see how important it is to listen before doing anything.
But listening goes against our basic nature. On October 18, 2015, Reverend Chad Scruggs, one of our pastors, gave a sermon on the book of James showing us how we need to grow up. We need to discipline ourselves to listen quickly (because we are naturally slow to listen) and to slow down our natural tendencies to speak and to express anger quickly. Perhaps James was thinking of the Proverb: “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Prov. 18:13)
Why is listening so primary? What does it accomplish? As I look through the Bible at all the references to “listen,” I find that most of them have to do with listening to God. In those passages, we could just as well replace it with the word “obey.” For example, Proverbs 8:32-33 or Isaiah 46:12. So listening to God is almost equivalent to obeying God. What do we accomplish when we obey God? We achieve oneness with Him and out of that unity comes wisdom. But when we listen to other people, we’re not always instructed to obey. Listening well helps us create harmony and builds up others. For example, Ephesians 4:29. In our church choir, our director often reminds us to listen carefully to the other singers around us and to the other sections. When we sing in tune with others, the result is harmony. In our regular interactions with friends and family, we listen to understanding them more clearly and to respond constructively rather that react destructively. We minimize conflict, we contribute to a harmonious relationship, and we might even build intimacy. When we listen to someone else, we communicate respect and concern. We tend to trust others more easily when they are good listeners.
I’m beginning to understand why listening is more important than anything else we might be inclined to do. It contributes to unity and harmony. When we are one with God (through obedience) and one with others (through understanding), we begin to demonstrate wisdom in dealing with life.