Sam Smith.jpg

Dr. Sam Smith

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak...” [James 1:19]

How are you as a conversationalist? In other words, are you easy to talk to or hard to talk to? Easy to talk to would mean that you are “quick to listen and slow to speak”. Hard to talk to is just the opposite; slow to listen and quick to speak. Think about this and be honest. When you are involved in a conversation, do you listen more or talk more? Do you give the other person time to speak their piece, or are you so anxious to get your two cents in that you cut them off? Are you so busy formulating your next utterance that you never hear what the other person is saying?

I must admit that by my true nature, I am not a good conversationalist. At some point in my life travel my brain has decided that the things I have to say are more important than the other fellow’s. It is my nature to cut them off, not listen to them and interrupt their talking by inserting my opinion in mid-sentence. I really do not like others to do that to me, but I surely do it to them. It is something I really have to work at, and with the help of the Holy Spirit I am getting better. When I read in God’s Word to listen more and talk less, I know that I must change my ways. You have probably heard it said that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason – we are to listen twice as much as we speak.

Why do you think that is? Why does God tell us to listen more than we talk? For one thing, it makes for better relationships. If we cannot carry on a pleasant conversation with our wife, for example, or our children, there will be discourse and friction in our home. If your child is trying to tell you something and you interrupt them, then you may miss something very important that they are trying to tell you. After a few times with that result, your child will stop talking to you and the communication that is so vital will be lost. Apply this principle to an employer/employee situation, or teacher/student or any relationship, and you will see how important it is that we learn to listen.

Another very important application of the listen more, talk less idea is our witnessing and sharing the Gospel. The last thing a non-believer needs to hear is everything we know about the Gospel all at once. People who do not know Christ have many things in their heart that they need to talk about. They need to tell it, and we need to listen. Let them talk until you know they have said all they want to say, and then tell them how Jesus can change their lives.

Proverbs 12:18 tells us, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” We should choose every word we speak very carefully. The Lord gave me this idea many years ago, “A word should never be spoken before it is filtered through the heart.” I pray that someday I will master that idea, because there are still times that I blurt out thoughts before weighing them. Here is another good idea regarding our words – make sure they are sweet for you may have to eat them. I know, for I have choked and gagged on millions of them.

Here is another great Proverb pertaining to our words, “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” [21:23] How many times have you gotten yourself in hot water by saying the wrong thing? I really need this lesson, because every verse I read seems to have my name on it. Maybe we will all learn to weigh our words more carefully. Lord knows our lives would be sweeter and calmer if we would pray for the Holy Spirit to guard our mouths, and that is another reason to learn this truth – our lives will be better for it.

I think the most important part of this lesson is summed up in James 3:8, “…no man can tame the tongue…” In other words, we cannot do it on our own. As with everything else in life, we must rely on the power of the Lord through His Holy Spirit to change our ways and follow His truths. We will be better witnesses for Jesus and enjoy more peaceful lives if we will allow the Spirit of the Lord to help us control our words. May we listen more and speak less, “be quick to listen, slow to speak.”

—Dr. Sam Smith is the organizer of Butterfly Ministries and can be reached at