“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
I bet this verse brings a few people to your mind. We all know people like this. The rise of social media seems to have created an environment for this kind of behavior to thrive. The truth is, we can all probably think of someone that fits the description of this verse, but what about ourselves? Of course, we don’t want to think of ourselves this way, but the Scripture wasn’t given so that you could judge your neighbors. It was given so that you could improve yourself.
So let’s ask God for a little bit of humility and let’s take a good long look in the mirror. The verse says that it is a fool who prefers speaking his own mind over seeking understanding. In other words, if a person has no desire to understand, to learn, or to listen, then that person is a fool. If a person would rather tout their own strongly held opinions with no inclination to hear a response, a reproof, or a word of wisdom from someone else, that person is a fool. Truthfully, all of us can be this way at times. It can be about anything, about scripture, about politics, about which restaurant has the better burger. We like to know best, and we like to let the world know it.
It seems to me like this problem rears its head the most with politics. Ideologically, the United States, and to some extent, the world, is growing more and more divided. As the divide grows, people become more and more unwilling to hear anyone’s opinion except those that agree with them. The scripture says that is unwise, that is foolish. It says that we should seek understanding before we seek an opportunity to speak. We should spend time listening, learning, and understanding before we ever open our mouths to spout an opinion. That means that we take time to hear how another person thinks. We take the opportunity to look at the world through another’s eyes. We walk a mile in another person’s shoes. We do what Jesus did and meet our neighbors where they are, get to know them, and work to understand them.
We have a tendency to demonize people that don’t agree with us. For lack of a better example, I’ll use politics again. Republicans often condemn Democrats as evil and immoral for their stances on things like abortion and gay marriage. In the same way, Democrats call Republicans heartless and uncompassionate for supporting the other side of the same issues. In the end, you just end up with two groups of people who hate each other. In reality, very few people are truly malicious in their intentions. Those who support abortion and other unscriptural political stances see the world in such a way as to believe that those things are good and right. Does that mean they are? Not unless Scripture agrees with them. But that’s not the point. The point is that no one carries a belief if they’re not convinced that it is good and right. Resist the temptation to believe that someone who thinks differently than you is evil or malicious. If we all sought to understand each other before we jumped at each other’s throats, maybe we wouldn’t be so divided. Maybe we’d see that we’re not so terribly different after all. And maybe, just maybe, we’d be more successful at bringing the truth of Jesus Christ to those who do not yet know him.
Listen before you speak. Understand before you condemn. It’s what Jesus did.
Give me the patience and wisdom to seek understanding before speaking my own mind. Give me the humility to accept that I’m not always right, and that I always have more to learn. Give me the empathy to understand how my neighbor thinks and feels, and give me the tools to speak truth in love.
In Jesus’ Name,