Listen More, Speak Less


Oak trees on the Cataloochee valley floor contrasted with the late fall color on the surrounding hillside

Oak trees on the Cataloochee valley floor contrasted with the late fall color on the surrounding hillside

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him. – Proverbs 18:13

Ever put your foot in your mouth?  Figuratively, that is!  I know I have a time or two or three or four…  Ever wondered why?  You are probably right there with me…it is because we make a decision to do or say something before we have the whole story.

God knows all and understands all and does all perfectly right the first time.  However, we are not like that.  We do not know all.  We do not understand all.  And as a result we usually do not do all the right way on the first try!  So, what do we do?

One of the little nuggets that God gave us through the writer of the Proverbs is the subject text found in Proverbs 18:13.  It is a short couplet of ancient Hebrew poetry technically referred to as synthetic parallelism.  Don’t worry, we won’t get too deep into the realms of Hebrew poetry, but it is important to understand what that means.  Synthetic parallelism provides an “if this…then this” type of relationship between the lines.  It does not provide a “possible” result; it provides “the” result.  The statement is true all the time, not some of the time.

In relation to this text, God states that it is foolish and shameful to draw a conclusion without understanding the situation.  The Hebrew term translated “heareth” is the main term used to portray the act of listening (used 1160 times in the Old Testament).  However, it is not just allowing the sound waves from the speaker to move your ear drum.  It goes deeper than that!  In other areas of the Old Testament, it is translated as “obey,” “heed,” and “understand.”  It has the idea that the information is not only taken into the mind, but it is processed by the mind and used to form a fuller picture of that which is being spoken.

The challenge is to have the patience and wherewithal to gather all (or at least as much as we can) the pertinent information before coming to a conclusion and acting on it.  It takes time.  It takes diligence.  It takes a desire to do that which is right in the site of God.

I do not endorse everything written by him, but the late Stephen Covey put it this way, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

May the LORD help us and remind us to act wisely and understand more before we decide and act!

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