If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding. Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor.
Proverbs 15:31-33 NLT
Listening doesn’t happen with our ears. Sound can be picked up by our ear drums and transmitted to our brains just fine and we can still completely miss it. When Jesus talks about having “ears to hear”, it isn’t about people who are physically sound and don’t need cochlear implants or hearing aids in order to properly receive the sound waves in their physical ears.
When someone has a different opinion from us, do we diminish or dismiss what they are saying — or take the time to truly consider their perspective?
When someone has something to say about us personally or about something that we have said or done, are we only interested in what strokes our ego — or are we considerate and grateful for the opportunity to consider criticism that we can learn from?
When God tells us His way, are we grumbling and defiant like a child not getting their way in the moment — or are we trusting that He knows best ands that there is a purpose and plan in it that is worthy of us conforming to His way instead of demanding our own?
And I know from personal experience that “truly listening” isn’t just taking the time for my conscious mind to process something either. For example, even when something makes it through my eyes or ears and into my conscious mind to be weighed or considered — if I am already offended, or bitter, or unforgiving, or hard headed in certain ways — I can see that I have not “truly listened” or given fair consideration to criticism, alternative perspectives, etc. So true “listening” is more than our auditory systems working properly, and it is more than a “conscious mind thing”.
Truly listening, truly hearing, is a thing of the spirit/heart/will of a man. A deaf man cannot hear with his ears, but a proud man does not listen with his mind — because He does not have a receptive spirit/heart/will guiding his thoughts, words and actions.
Do we see the distinction there between cannot (ability) and does not (willingness)?
I wonder how many times I (an able bodied man) have not listened and missed it like a deaf man? Have not seen, and missed it like a blind man? Have not walked with God, and missed it like a lame man? Have not lived an abundant life of humble repentance, and missed it like a dead man?
And isn’t whether we are listening or not really an indicator of our heart/spirit/will — and whether it is surrendered to and is aligned/imitating/emanating Christ — or whether we are still trying to rule over our own lives?
What a great opportunity this offers us for repentance, for listening, for discipline, for pruning — so that we can bear much great fruit and produce that fragrant aroma that is pleasing to God. What areas of our life need to be cut off and burned so that we can know joy that lasts and grows and expands — rather than momentary happiness, pleasure or escape that is fleeting.
Heavenly Father, we are so grateful for Christ Jesus who can not only heal the deaf, blind, lame, diseased, and dead bodies — but who can do even greater with our innermost being. Help us to eagerly listen, to willingly submit, and to humbly receive. Amen.