Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.
Words – there are far too many of them now days. They are often used without thought, or to fill space, or to make us feel better, or someone else worse. There are some people or media platforms or “voices” that you would rather not hear because of their lack of substance, constant dribble or hurtful or unfiltered commentary. Similarly there are those people or “voices” that you pay attention to every time they use words because you know it will be wisdom that is thought out and worth listening to. We note in Scripture the crowds hung on Jesus every word.
When we speak to God I wonder how he views us sometimes? Are we hasty in our prayers and words before him, pouring out ill-thought questions and requests and demands or comments? Don’t get me wrong, God loves us to pour out our heart to him, but the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that when we come to God we should come to listen more than to speak. We should not be hasty in our utterances, and that we should look at our “steps” or examine our hearts when we engage him in conversation or in worship.
Listening is an art that doesn’t always come naturally to us. For me and I am sure many others, it was something that had to be learned and still needs to be refined and thought about regularly. The art of listening needs to be developed and grown and valued. It is a gift to the “other” and also the way to know God better and to hear his still small voice. Yet in our culture everyone wants to have the last word, as if somehow that makes what they have said “right” or that by having the last word they have somehow “won” the argument or discussion. This is clearly seen in debates, panels on TV, social media, online conversations and in our own daily relationships. It is a scourge and it is a false narrative.
Having the last word is not a Godly character. A much better posture is one of listening, to others and to God. God always has the last word anyway and we will be much more effective in ministry and relationships if we spent more time listening than trying to ensure we have the last word – in anything. So don’t be quick with your mouth, but be quick with your ears. And resist trying to have the last word either with people or with God.