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Skill of Listening - James 1:19-21

Susan loves the Lord. She seeks to walk close to him by studying the word of God. His word holds all the answers to life's questions.

Book of James

Book of James

Book of James

Welcome back to a Bible study called Life Lessons from the Book of James. Today's topic, The Skill of Listening, holds many secrets to being an instrument of God's love as you learn how to be a GREAT friend and mentor.

Today's topic, found in James 1:19-21, as stated previously is The Skill of Listening. In these three verses we will discuss

  • The importance of being a good listener
  • Knowing when to speak and when to be silent
  • Controlling anger and those pesky impulsive reactions also known as open mouth insert foot.
  • Concludes with instructions about your heart

If you would like a simple Bible study pattern to follow I have designed 7 simple steps. These seven steps are utilized in this study with the purpose of helping you to look deeply into God's word.

To find these steps and to start at the beginning of this study go to: Life Lessons from the Book of James.

This approach to studying the scripture is up close and personal. Picture yourself holding a magnifier as you look very closely and intently at just a few verses at a time.

Before you study always pray for the Holy Spirit to interpret and to communicate the heart of God to you. His word is a lamp to your feet.

Before we delve into today's study, let's take a hike back to the previous study on James 1:16-18

Intimacy with God

Our last study, James 1:16-18 revealed the fact that our God is never changing. There is security in knowing that.

His Word is His love letter to you and to me. It is eternal truth from our ALL WISE, ALL KNOWING, EVER- LASTING Father God; The one who created us and therefore knows how we tick.

As a believer we seek to know God and unlock the secrets to life anew. In order to do that we must delve into His word and allow the Holy Spirit to search us and grow us into all truth.

As we study and apply these truths to our lives we will begin to experience blessings and insights like we never knew before.

Are you up for the challenge? If you are His kid He offers you His heart through the Word of God. Draw near to God and He WILL draw near to you.

This weeks Bible study, James 1:19-21 focuses on the importance of learning to listen, thinking before speaking and restraining your anger. It wraps it up with a close examination of the heart and what needs to be done before we can 'hear' from God.

Listen more than you talk

Listen more than you talk

Be Quick to Listen

James 1:19

"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must ALL be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."

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The first directive James gives his dearly loved brothers and sisters is that they must be quick to listen. Have you thought about your proficiency as a listener? Do you practice patience and concentration when a friend shares what is on their heart? Does your friend know you value what they have to say?

Poor listening skills announces clearly and brashly ... You are not important to me! It is very discouraging and hurtful to the person confiding their hearts with you to find you are not listening.

Evidence of a poor listener shows up in body language. When the listener looks away or glances at his watch or grabs the chance to change the subject it's a sure signal he's not listening.

Here's a test: When someone is sharing a concern does your mind take off rehearsing a similar experience that may just 'top' what your friend is saying? Ouch - I hope that hurts - it hurts me.

I have a simple saying that if applied will help develop listening skills. the Acronym is SELAM. I like to think of it being pronunced as SLLLAAAM shut the mouth. The process goes like this: Shut mouth - engage brain - Listen carefully - A prayer for wisdom - Mouth opens.

Linger on that short acronym will you? Think about how you could practice this skill in your conversations. Application of this listening skill could make you a better friend and or adviser.

As we become better listeners we take pause in order to allow wisdom rather than pride, foolishness or wrath to flow from our lips.

Keep in mind that the pride of life is ever ready to steer us off course - the art of listening is a lifelong process and believe me I do not claim to get an A in the subject - I am still in school.

Think Before you Speak

Think Before you Speak

Be Slow to Speak

The second directive in James 1:19 is to be slow to speak. Remember the handy little acronym to improve your Skill of Listing: Shut mouth - engage brain - listen carefully - pray for wisdom - then open mouth.

By the time you open your mouth to speak, by following the directive, you will have applied the skill of listening so well that the words you speak will uplift, be filled with wisdom, impart life and encouragement to those blessed to know you.

The picture and message featured on the right is another great tool to assist in developing the skill of listening. Before opening our mouths these five questions provide a way to measure the value our words.

If you really are serious about being a better listener, better friend, wise source of council I would suggest writing the THINK message on an index card, carry it with you and refer to it until it becomes part of the hardware of your brain.

When you speak evaluate your words. Are they True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind.

Listen and Be Slow to Speak

Listen and Be Slow to Speak

Be Slow to Anger

The third directive in James 1:19 is to be slow to Anger and as we read into verse 20 additional insight is given: "Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires"

How about when you get triggered while listening? You know .. those times when someone is saying something and suddenly you get ticked off. Do you spout off in anger or have you learned to reign in your quick reaction? When you choose to listen carefully all the way to the end you might be surprised what is being communicated.

Many times a quick response can end communication becoming a roadblock to further communication. It can also rob you the opportunity of a true perspective. You must listen carefully to grasp the whole picture.

Additional Scriptures about Anger:

Proverbs 29:11 - "A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back."

James 1:20 - "For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God."

Proverbs 19:11 - "Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense."

Ecclesiastes 7:9 - "Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools."

Proverbs 15:1 - "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

To study more scripture and directions about Anger go to Bible Study Tools

Create in me a Clean Heart

Create in me a clean Heart

Create in me a clean Heart

Thy Word is a Lamp Unto my Feet

Get Rid of Evil

The next verse leads us from communication skills to an examination of inward heart issues.

James 1:21 "So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls."

Get rid of ... is a command. Why is this so important? As you will see, If filth or evil is harbored in the believers heart, it is like a brick wall that stands between us and righteousness. So what specifically does James refer to when he names filth and evil?

I referred to John MacArthurs commentary on James in order to understand the root meanings for these words.

Filth - Refers to any sort of moral defilement or impurity. It is as wax in the ear to the hearer - impairs our ability to hear clearly. As you examine your life can you identify actions or acceptance of moral defilement or impurity. Perhaps you yourself do not welcome such bold sin into your life but you bring it into your living room via the television, radio, book, friend etc. You must know that as God's child Filth separates us from the freedom the God died to give us ... Filth blocks us from hearing and receiving God's word of Truth.

Evil - Denotes moral evil and corruption in general. The root meaning of evil in this verse has to do with intent. It is a deliberate and determined evil. This evil that may hide away in the heart before it is eventually uncovered. In some cases it is never uncovered but is 'hidden' sin that only the Lord and the person is aware of. It is delusion to think it is really hidden.

The last part of the verse tells us why we need to get rid of filth and evil. These destructive forces make it impossible to 'see' or 'hear' from Father God. We must get rid of them so that we may humbly accept the word God has planted in our hearts. The word planted here is referring to salvation and the seed that has been planted into the good soil of the believers heart.

Humility as used in in this verse translates to mean meekness or gentleness and includes the prized quality of being teachable. It is that willingness to put self and sins aside in order to draw near to God. We believe and accept that His dealing in our lives is for our good. Trusting Him we do not dispute or resist putting aside self and getting rid of the sins that block us from His blessings.

As a kid who loves God I submit my heart before the Lord. I receive the word implanted with a teachable spirit which is cleansed of pride, resentment, anger and every form of moral corruption.

The end of verse 21 tells us that God's word has the power to save our soul. In other words we must continually receive it, in the sense of allowing it to direct and control our lives. The word of God is able to keep you from the power and dominion of sin and from of the heartache and brokenness that comes with sin.

When our heart is clean God speaks to us through His life giving word. The Holy Spirit interprets the meaning to us and empowers us to live lives filled with victory and meaning. Here are some references to what God says about His word:

"For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires." Hebrews 4:12

"Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:105

Humble Yourselves

In conclusion I pray you have been impressed to work on your listening skills and to clean up your heart. We must make room for God's word to do its work in the humility of a submission to His ways.

We will eventually get to James 4 but for now note the repeated theme and remember this is from God the Father who loves you and desires to see you walk in obedience. When we are walking in His way He pours out His Spirit and you experience the Abundant Life Jesus died to give you.

James 4:7-10 "Humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor."

Are You Deceived

Please join me for an examination of our hearts. In James 1:22-25 we will be taking an up close a personal look to consider the possibility of deception lurking inside. Are you Deceived? Are you a Hearer only or a Doer of God's word? Do not be deceived - evaluate your heart. Are You Deceived?


For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. To Improve Listening Skills
    • Analyze every word the person speaks
    • Shut Mouth, Engage Brain, Listen Carefully, A Prayer for Wisdom, Mouth Open
    • Think of a Great Story to prove you have had the same experience
  2. What Needs to Happen to 'hear' from God?
    • Make sure we are perfect
    • Take a course in Greek and Hebrew
    • Get Rid of Filth and Evil

Answer Key

  1. Shut Mouth, Engage Brain, Listen Carefully, A Prayer for Wisdom, Mouth Open
  2. Get Rid of Filth and Evil

© 2013 Susan Ream


Susan Ream (author) from Michigan on September 17, 2013:

Hey it's my Sista' Skye, What a lovely and encouraging note you have placed on this hub. I am so thankful for my hubpage friends - you being one of the BEST on the hubs!

I am blessed to hear how you make a conscious effort to practice listening which points you to Jesus - I agree that we cannot do it alone but through His power we can do ALL things. :)

So you like the acronym? SELAM the mouth before it takes on a life of its own ... lol. My mouth is known to do that so the acronym is a great way to remember to listen before I open my mouth.

Yes sweet Skye, let us stay in school forever as we prepare for the home we will both go to after this life is over.

Wendy is amazing - God so faithfully answered all of the prayers and provided a miracle which manifests itself to this day. She looks great, has energy and shines of peace ... just LOVE her!

I will keep holding on to Jesus - Where else can I go but to the Lord.. (know that song?)

Thanks for stopping by. I need to visit you more often too for a little lift and encouragement to stay on the path and finish well.

Love and Hugs,

Your Sista' Mekenzie

skye2day from Rocky Mountains on September 17, 2013:

Dear Mek, My precious sister. Well you done it again girl. You have blessed me with a wonderful Bible study. I really enjoyed and savored each word. You are such a gifted teacher sweetie. I love how you have written this out in simplicity and truth easy to follow and understand. Glory to God. I have made a conscious effort to practice listening at different times. It only pointed me to Jesus. I can not do it alone. No way no how but with Christ I can.

I love your pointers and tips. SELAM! Great idea to get a card and write down the tips. For me I will put in my wallet to remind myself to listen up. Making eye contact is really valuable! I know I can drift easily but when I look into the eyes it helps me to stay focused.

Let us stay in school together girl. lol I think we are in the best one on the block! The School for Christ. Can not get much better than that. I do pray all is well with you and yours Mek. How is Wendy doing dear sister?

I have missed you and hope to get by more often. Do come for a visit my precious friend. Keep holding the hand of Jesus. You will, I know it. Hugs galore. Love you. Your sista, Skye.

shared voted!

Susan Ream (author) from Michigan on June 26, 2013:

Karen, I almost missed your comment - pleasantly surprised to find it here. :) Yes, our family members are the ones who usually get the brunt of our preoccupation. Easy to take them for granted BUT how many opportunities we will miss to teach, instruct and encourage them if we fail to really listen.

I am sure we are ALL guilty of this and it is a good reminder to apply listening skills to those whom God has entrusted to us.

Thanks Karen for your insightful comment!

Blessings to you!


Susan Ream (author) from Michigan on June 26, 2013:

mackyi, such a beautiful comment you have made. We do miss out when we fail to shut up and listen. I love the deeper perspective you bring out on how we many times fail to hear the voice of God because we don't take the time to be still .. and know that He is God. In a world of busyness it is just too easy to fail in the area of stillness and quietness where He waits for us.

Thank you for leaving your thoughts and further reflection.

God Bless YOU!


I.W. McFarlane from Philadelphia on June 25, 2013:

Mekenzie, this is indeed a very interesting hub. You have touched on so many things that we all need to be aware of. On the subject of learning to speak and when not to in particular, I think a lot of us sometimes miss out on so many important points during a conversation with another person, simply because we don't know how to shut up and just listen. In fact, there are even times when God is speaking to us, and we fail to get the message just because we don't know how to be quiet and listen.

Karen Fritzemeier on June 21, 2013:

Thanks for the great reminders to listen and to be slow to speak. Good reminders for me---even with my children. I realize I need to listen to them better.

Susan Ream (author) from Michigan on June 20, 2013:

Hello my Sweet friend Faith, You did comment -I am just getting around to answering. I know I'm a bit slow . ;)

I most definitely know what you mean about grandkids and the lack of concentration .. that's me through and through. It's hard for me to give up the computer when they are here .. but I have found myself getting in trouble - especially when reading and only getting parts because of interruptions.

Ah I guess it's a good thing to give up in order to give all to these important little people. lol

Praying before reading, in my mind, is to come humbly asking the Holy Spirit to search our hearts, pointing out sin and teaching us personally what we need to learn and apply.

I've worked in many offices too and have learned that when we answer an irate person with kindness and gentle listening ... most of the time we win them over- not always .. but mostly. ;)

Thank you for you encouragement and your ever faithful heart. I value you and thank God for your testimony as it shines in all you write.

Blessings and thanks for reading and adding to the meaning of the skill of listening.


Susan Ream (author) from Michigan on June 20, 2013:

Hi Always, Refreshing honesty .. can't change it if we don't admit it. His truth is so healing and helpful. I too am guilty of speaking before hearing the whole message.

As a result of meditating on this lesson I am finding the Holy Spirit gently reminding me .. Shut Mouth - Engage brain - Listen Carefully - Pray for Wisdom ... and only then - Open mouth. :) As I work on listening better I see the value over and over.

Thanks for the visit and the share.



Faith Reaper from southern USA on June 20, 2013:

Hi Dearest Mekenzie,

Well, I thought I left a comment already, as it popped into my email again, which means I did, I believe? I love that you've added Psalm 51:10 here, very appropriate.

Hugs, Faith Reaper

Susan Ream (author) from Michigan on June 20, 2013:

Thanks Blossom - I learned a lot from this study and am working on developing my skill of listening. The Holy Spirit is so faithful to prick me when I open mouth to insert foot. :)

Blessings to you this fine day my friend!


Faith Reaper from southern USA on June 19, 2013:

Yay, I scored 100 again! hehe

Hi Dearest Mekenzie,

My granddaughters have gone home and I am back on my work schedule, but I promised myself to not read so that I would not skim : ) and take in your whole wonderful study here.

That is a very good point you made there about praying prior to studying the scripture, as He will truly reveal much to us when we ask. Although, the Word is so powerful that it never goes out void for sure!

Boy, this lesson is what I needed to study this day, as I surely can improve on all of the above.

I love that scripture Proverbs 15:1 and actually have it taped to my phone at work to be mindful when speaking, as we do receive a lot of ill persons calling our office, which can stir up one's wrath either on my end or their end too.

Thanks for being you and His good and faithful servant.

Voted up ++++ and sharing

God bless, Faith Reaper

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on June 19, 2013:

Many times my mouth speaks in haste. Thank you for sharing wisdom....

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on June 19, 2013:

An interesting insight into the letter of James. You have set it out well, too, with evocative images and I love those banners and mottos.

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