Listening the Wrong Way

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by Rich Nelson

“Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.” (from Luke 8:16-25)

“Pay attention to how you listen.” Jesus said these words and someone needs to put them on a t-shirt ASAP. As a society, we would all do well to pay more attention to HOW we listen, if we are bothering to listen at all. Too often we are merely talking/shouting past one another.

Jesus’ words here sound disconcerting to us precisely because we are listening the wrong way. Is he really promising that in God’s kingdom the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer? Of course not. We hear these words (have and have not) and immediately presume the only kind of wealth is material wealth. Jesus instead is speaking of spiritual wealth. The more we listen for wisdom, the more of it we will receive. The less we listen, the less wisdom we will possess.

Before God’s wisdom we should be nothing but humble. Being humble does not mean to think lowly of oneself. Being humble, at least as I am using this word, means to willingly assume a position of presumed incompleteness and lesser significance. It is to start from a place of admitting that we still have a lot to learn, rather than boasting that we have all the answers. How different this is than the usual posture we take with others!

Jesus, the greatest among us, demonstrates this life of humility by serving others whom he could have rightfully command to serve him. “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” is a complete re-ordering of the social hierarchy. The way to the top, Jesus says, is to go to the bottom. Christians are called to climb down the ladder while everyone else is clamoring to climb up. Why? Because someone needs to be down there to steady the ladder for others and catch them when they fall. And make no mistake about it, all who climb will eventually fall.

Pay attention today. Notice if you listen. Then notice how you listen. Pray for God to humble you into a posture of listening rather than interrupting.

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