We can probably all think of a time where someone has said to us, “You’re not listening to me!” When we talk to someone else they may hear us, but they did not listen. Do you see the difference? I can ask my husband, "Please bring me my water." He can hear me and not bring it to me. He may argue that he listened, just chose not to do it. I might argue he heard me, but didn't listen to me. Minor difference, but Scripturally based!
In Luke 6:46-49 the Bible says, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." (niv)
What we see in this short passage from Jesus is there are two ways to hear: one is to just hear and the other is to listen and understand, do, or obey.
The word obey is not the most fun word in our language. It doesn’t have the exciting life-giving ring to it that most of us are drawn to. Often times we think if we have to obey someone it means that we have to subject or submit ourselves to another person’s control. While this may be the general understanding of “obey”, and there is some truth to it, there’s something very interesting about the word to pay attention to.
The root word of obedience in Latin comes from the root word “to hear”.To ask someone to obey us is to ask them to listen to us. When we begin to understand that then the ugliness of the word “obey” seems to lose the negative connotation.Verse 47 says, “I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, the follows it…”(nlt) and it turns about to be the wise man.
A lot of times in Scripture when Jesus is talking He ends His teachings with “He who has ears let him hear” or “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” or “Blessed are your ears because they hear” or, again, “Anyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house upon the rock.” All over Scripture the Lord is beckoning us to “Listen!” and that doesn’t just mean hear the words that are said. In the same way we ask our friends, spouses, children, parents, students, or teachers and anyone else to listen to us it doesn’t mean hear our words.We’re asking those people to listen and respond accordingly!In Matthew 13 there is a parable of the sower. In the explanation of the parable (verses 18-23) Jesus reveals the difference between those who hear Him and those who listen to Him.
The only difference between the good and bad seeds ("seeds" is the metaphor Jesus uses meaning people He has spoken to) is that the bad hear and don't grow roots and the good, those that listen, do establish roots. The good seed is blessed. It's the one that not only hears but understands, that does, that gets it. In the parable everyseed (every person) hears what is said about the kingdom, but only one understands; only one sees what is meant; only one does something with it, establishes roots and produces fruit.
Now let’s go back again to Luke 6. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I say?” Jesus, at this point, is getting a little frustrated. He has been followed around by a number of believers, gives this GREAT sermon on a mountain that is convicting and calls all His listeners to change, be transformed, and take action. Yet at the end of it all He asks, “Why do you exult me as your Lord, why do you give me that respect, but not do what I’m asking? Why aren’t you listening?” The people are hearing but not understanding, the people are hearing but not obeying. Remember the word to obey, at its root, means to listen, to hear, to understand.
So maybe instead of always saying we need to obey the Lord, which is true, we could just say we need to be listening to the Lord. This is only a minor difference, but might help to reduce the intimidation for us. Remember earlier we acknowledged that obeying means there is some kind of submission to someone else’s control or ideas. This is what it means to listen to God; this is what it means to obey Jesus.
It’s hard to cover all that Jesus asks us to listen to, understand, do and obey in just one entry, but we are still being called to listen; to fully listen, to take action. Now to listen to your parent, to our friends, to our spouses, or our pastors is all one thing but we enter a whole other playing field when we bring in our Lord.
Our passage in Luke reveals to us that many of Jesus’ followers were hearing but not truly listening. My question for you is which follower are you? Are you the one that calls Him “Lord, Lord!” but just hears?Are you the one thatbuilds your life, your house, without the Lord’s foundation, without obeying Him? Or are you the builder with a foundation, the wise man who listens and obeys; the man who has ears that hear and understands?
What we read in Scripture from Jesus aren’t a bunch of suggestions. He doesn’t ask us to listen to Him out of courtesy, just to be polite. He asks us to listen because what He has to say is so good, is so packed, that it’s worth building our very lives on! He wants us to make it our foundation! He says in Luke that if we did call Him “Lord, Lord” and listened, understood, obeyed, we would be able to withstand anything: the flood, the persecution, judgment day. The Bibleisn’t a big book of suggestions or recommendations. Jesus is saying, “read this and LISTEN” We’re to be building our lives around doing the things that our Lord says throughout Scripture.
When we truly hear, Jesus gives us the opportunity to grow spiritually in ways not everyone can. It is a privilege to hear, or listen, to obey our Lord Jesus and it creates a life for each of us that we cannot even fathom! A strong life that can withstand storms.
I pray we’re not the seeds that hear but don't grow roots that Jesus refers to in Matthew 13. I pray we are not those that call Him “Lord, Lord” but do not listen to what He says. I pray we have a firm foundation. May we have ears to hear.