Listen More . . . Babble Less

“But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. (2 Timothy 2:16)

Mary was one of those persons who seemingly knew something about everything, and she would be the first to tell you.  People who knew her well would sarcastically say that “what Mary doesn’t know isn’t worth knowing.” Of course, with her supposed infinite amount of knowledge came the opinions. Although she was frequently labeled as a gossip, I’m not really convinced that was her true intention. She just didn’t have much of a skill for listening. Some would say she just loved to hear herself talk. Mary could talk incessantly about trivial matters that in the whole scheme of things just didn’t matter all that much.  I personally found her rather exhausting to be around and would quickly find an excuse to take my leave if I needed to be with her for very long. Still, I suppose in some ways, we all find ourselves to be a bit like Mary from time to time. When we become so full of ourselves and our meaningless chatter, we often find that there is little, if any, room for God. When this occurs, we are in serious trouble.

Such was the case of the descendants of Noah in Babylonia over 4000 years ago when the world spoke one common language (Genesis 11:1-9). Those who populated the earth had become skilled in construction and decided to build a city with a tower that would reach to heaven. In doing so, they wanted to make a name for themselves and also prevent their population from being scattered. God came to see their city and the tower they were building. In his infinite wisdom, he knew that the successful completion of their project would only serve to isolate the people from Him. God did not like the pride in their hearts, so He caused them to suddenly speak different languages. In doing so, they became disorderly and could not communicate and work together to finish the tower. This resulted in what they had feared the most – their scattering across the earth. The tower was named The Tower of Babel because the word Babble means confusion. This story is a powerful reminder of how important it is to obey God’s Word and to not think that we can build a life in which we propose to “know it all.” 

Today things have not changed all that much. Useless babble continues to clutter the world around us. From cell phones to social media, from talk shows to the break room at work . . . it consumes our culture resulting in a decreasing amount of opportunity for a meaningful exchange of ideas.  More and more, if you don’t agree with what I am saying – well then, there’s just no point in having a conversation. How sad for our society that a healthy debate where people actually listen to one another is in many arenas no longer socially acceptable. The Apostle Paul provided this wise counsel to his student Timothy: “Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20). If he could talk to us now – he might say that we look without seeing, listen without hearing, and speak without understanding. Sometimes, even in Christian circles where you would least expect it, a true connection with God often gets shoved aside because of our worthless chatter and arrogance.

The reason many of us speak so many idle words is that we sometimes speak far too many words. We talk so much that we have no time to think, and no time to listen to each other or to hear the voice of God. The Old Testament identifies this as foolishness: “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13). We live at a time when never before have so many been able to say (and hear) so much in so many ways.  The airwaves, cyber-waves, print-waves, and every other wave of human understanding have bombarded our minds. This has resulted in an information overload, much of which is unhelpful, if not downright misleading or false. We must therefore take personal responsibility for the words we digest as well as those that we repeat. Jesus gave us this warning – “you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you” (Matthew 12:36). We would do well to listen more and speak less (James 1:19) and when we do speak, learn to follow His lead.  As we draw closer in our relationship with the Lord -perhaps, bottom-line, we just need to take a little more time to listen and a lot less to babble.

REFLECTION: Are there any manmade “stairways to heaven” you are building in your own life? Who are you listening to as you formulate and evaluate your life plans? Have you taken time to consider the thoughts of others as well as the counsel of God’s Word as you focus on these goals?

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