"Why Do We Have Two Ears and Only One Mouth?"
Have you ever wondered why we have one mouth and two ears? I believe James 1:19, 20 has the answer. It reads, “But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (NASB) Can you imagine the difference it would make in relationships between people, if people would heed this simple piece of advice? I prefer the NIV rendering, because it says “be quick” to listen. In our busy world there is a big difference between hearing and listening.
Let me illustrate with an example from my marriage. Early in our marriage I was a teacher/coach. Because my coaching responsibility was after school, my days were long. Add to this the fact my wife and I had made the decision for her to not work out of the home until our children started school. This decision left her at home everyday with our two boys. When I arrived home, I would eat supper and, then, move to the living room to watch the news. During this time my wife would talk to me about her day. One evening, while I was watching the nightly news and she was talking to me, she cried out, “You are not listening to a thing I say.” I made matters worse by repeating almost word for word what she had said.
The truth is she was right. I was not listening. I was hearing the words but I was not listening to the loneliness that was in her voice. Having spent her day with our two energetic young boys, she was not only exhausted; she was in desperate need of adult conversation. After having given her full attention to the boys all day, she needed someone to give her their undivided attention. She needed someone who would hear beyond the words and would see her needs. She needed someone to not only hear the words but to listen for the feelings from which the words came. I believe this is the type of hearing the writer of James was writing about.
The writer of Proverbs understood the importance of harnessing ones tongue and taking the time to listen to the words being spoken. Verses about the tongue can be found throughout Proverbs. For brevity’s sake, I will use only one: “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20 NASB).
When you have people with deaf ears and unrestrained tongues, anger is inevitable. Here lies the root of many of the conflicts that exist today in the Church. Everyone has an opinion and far too few are willing to listen to what the other person is saying. It is easier to label the person hardheaded and stubborn than it is to take the time to listen to see where his opinion originated. If we take time to listen to the heart of the one speaking, we may still disagree but we can have a better understanding of why he feels the way he does.
If we do not take the time to listen, anger becomes a natural result. Proverbs also has much to say about anger. Proverbs 22:24, 25 says, “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, lest you learn his ways, and find a snare for yourself (NASB).
The real tragedy in the anger the results from having a quick tongue and a deaf hear is that anger can not achieve the righteousness of God. This alone should be motivation enough for those in God’s church to make it a point to heed the instruction from this short verse in James. By heeding, we will be better equipped to portray the righteousness of God in our homes, workplaces and church. God will be honored and we will be blessed.