I was with a group of men recently and I was teaching on biblical stewardship. At one point, one of the men asked, “what kinds of ministries do you like giving to?”
“Before I answer that, I have a question for you. How much of what you own, belongs to God?” I asked. “All of it,” was his reply.
“Well then, what ministries I like giving to, or what you like giving to, is the wrong question. The most important question is this; where does God want his resources invested?”
Like most husbands, when their wives ask them to read something, my heart rate instantly rose when my wife Susan suggested I read just three pages of a book – on listening.
I’m a terrible listener. But those three pages gave me hope and a specific plan to get better at a skill, scripture highly encourages.
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19
So, if you or someone you know is listening challenged as I am, just ask them to read this blog, which is edited from a wonderful book entitled The Listening Life, by Adam McHugh (Intervarsity Press). Then buy this book!
Pushing the Arrow
Good listening starts with the scandalous premise that this conversation is not about you. Allow me to repeat myself: this conversation is not about you. Yet everything in us wants to make it about ourselves. It is an ever-present temptation, even if we are not aware of it. Perhaps especially if we are not aware of it.
It is my aim to simplify the art of listening, the art of not making the conversation about you, as much as possible. Imagine that there is a big arrow hovering over the space between two people engaged in a conversation. It is a very smart, mind-reading arrow, and it swivels to point at whomever the attention in the conversation is focused on. To listen, we remind ourselves, is to pay focused and loving attention on another. So, as the listener in this conversation, your goal is to keep the arrow pointing at the other person. Encourage the other person to keep talking, to take an idea further, to go deeper into a story, memory or emotion. Then you’re listening. If you remember nothing else from this chapter remember this.
Even atheists know the Golden Rule. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31.
Good parents have taught their children to obey the Golden Rule, from the time they could talk. And whenever someone mentions the Golden Rule, we nod in affirmation and say, “That’s the only way to live!”
And when we were children the application of the Golden Rule was pretty straightforward.
“Kids, remember the Golden Rule. Do onto others as you would have them do to you.”
But the application of the Golden Rule gets more complicated as we get older. Why? Because it sometimes involves our attitude toward people different than us or people who’ve hurt us deeply and it often costs us dearly.
Over the years, I’ve met so many young people who have walked away from God or became angry with him because “he took my mother (or dad) from me. Why would a good God, a loving God do that?” So a few years ago I decided to prepare our grandchildren for the day of my death. Each of them, roughly 15 years old or over have gotten “the talk.” They’ve now heard straight from me in this life, what death means for true Christians. Here’s the gist of what I told them.