Jesus once made a statement that has always made me flinch. After the parable of the sower, when listing all the various soils and what went wrong with each hearer, he added, as Luke records it, Be careful therefore, how you hear, 8:18. In a society big on blaming everyone but ourselves for our problems, this is truly one of the biggest. Unlike the early church, which seemed to thrive on helping each other overcome problems with confessions and exhortations, we seem to think that no one has the right to tell us anything that might even slightly indicate that we might need to change. Or we “wear our feelings on our shirtsleeves,” as the old saying goes, so we can be offended at the least provocation.
Jesus makes it plain in this passage that how I take what people say to me is entirely up to me. It only makes sense when you think about it. If I had no control over my reactions to what others say, then it would be to my advantage for people to say hurtful things to me, wouldn’t it? In fact, getting my feelings hurt would be the ideal way to go. Then I could be angry and strike back with no qualms at all.
I could ignore the rebukes others offered for my sins as long as I felt insulted, and could keep doing them, couldn’t I? But Paul says in Rom 2:6 that God will render to every man according to his deeds, not according to how someone corrected me.
I could ignore the one who tells me I am wrong about what I believe if I thought he had evil motives and bad intentions, couldn’t I? But Paul also says of those who preached with bad intentions, What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed and therein I rejoice, Phil 1:19.
I could hear false teaching and not have to worry about checking it out, right? But Jesus said in Matt 15:14, they are blind guides and if the blind guide the blind, they both fall into a pit.
So here is my obligation: Listen to what others say, and evaluate it based upon truth, not upon how they say it, who they are, and whether or not I like them or their teaching. Judgment Day will not dawn with three groups of people, including a group who “got their feelings hurt,” or “didn’t like the preacher,” or “were provoked,” and because of that did not do what they should have done.
There will only be two groups: the ones who did right and the ones who did not. Let’s get out those Q-tips and clean out our ears. Be careful how you hear.
He who corrects a scoffer gets to himself reviling, and he who reproves a wicked man gets himself a blot. Reprove a scoffer and he will hate you; reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be even wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning, Prov 9:7-9
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who is wise listens to counsel. Prov 12:15