“Hear ye! Hear ye!”
A town crier, or as he was sometimes called, a bellman, was an officer of the court whose responsibility was to make public announcements of such things as proclamations, bylaws, and even advertisements. The town crier would ring a bell and then cry out, “Oyez! Oyez!” which means “Hear ye! Hear ye!” This cry was a call for those in hearing distance to be silent and listen, because what the town crier was about to say was important.
In the first chapter of the letter of James, the writer, believed to be the brother of Jesus, begins verse 19 by telling his brothers and sisters in Christ to “take note of this.” The Greek word used here is iste, which means know. In some translations, it appears as “know this” or “understand this.” Like a town crier, James wanted the readers of his letter to know that what they were about to read next was important. It was something that they should pay attention to and take to heart. What could be so important? What did James want believers to take note of? After getting our attention, James continues by telling us that all of us need to be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
Listening is important for a follower of Christ. In a conversation, it is more important to listen than to speak. This is why James says we should be quick to listen but slow to speak. We need to hear what the other person has to say so that we will know how to respond. When we spend our time thinking about what we are going to say without listening, when we are quick to speak and slow to hear, misunderstandings can occur. And with misunderstandings come disagreements and disagreements often lead to anger. A person who is quick to listen and slow to speak is much more likely to be slow to anger. This is important, as the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20).
Listening is also important when it comes to God’s Word. As we spend time reading His Word, we must also be listening. We must be listening to what the words say and also for what God is trying to say to us through those words. God speaks to us through His Word and, if we listen, we will hear His still, small voice as He speaks to our hearts. But, we must not just listen to His Word, we must also do what it says. We need to be both listeners and doers. When we listen only but do not do what the Word says, it will not stay with us but will be forgotten (James 1:22-24). When we listen to His Word and then act on it, we will be blessed (James 1:25) and will have a firm foundation on which to build our lives on (Matthew 7:24).