Are you really listening? If you've got kids, you've probably asked that question on more than one occasion. I have. Particularly when it comes to my son, Harrison. We have many conversations that go something like this...
Me: Harrison, I need you to help me out with something. Can you.... (fill in the blank)?
Harrison: Sure, dad. I'll be glad to.
Me: Now, I need you to do it this way and by this certain time. Can you handle that?
Harrison: Yes, sir. I'll do it.
Me: Any questions?
Harrison: (after a slight pause) Wait a minute...when do you want me to do it?
Me: Are you even listening to me?
But I find that I can't get too frustrated with him. My parents had the same conversations with me. And, oddly enough, I think God has those same concerns about my ability to listen. You see, like too many Christ followers, I grew up believing that just hearing the Word (reading it, hearing it on the radio or in messages) was enough to change me. I was, after all, being confronted with God's word regularly. However, I understand now that listening without integrating it is exactly what James was talking about in this passage:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22 NIV
Far too many church goers think that being in the presence of a teacher qualifies as putting the Word of God in their heart. It doesn't. Not even close. If it were that easy, we could put in a CD of someone reading the word, play it over a loudspeaker on the back of a ice cream truck and change our culture radically by influencing our kids with God's message. It's not that easy. Hearing the word puts it into our ears but the only way to put it into our hearts is by integrating it's message into our lives. This requires meditation, study, prayer and practice--none of which most church goers do on any regular basis.
This, in my mind, is the number one reason why studies and surveys indicate that Christians and non-Christians have very similar behaviors (divorce, alcoholism, cheating, gossip, etc.). We're just hearing the Word without letting it change us. And the Word, without change, is just like the seed that Jesus talked about (Luke 8:4-15) that withered because it had no root or got choked out because it grew among thorns. God asks, are you really listening but, more than that, are you allowing His Word to change who you are? Without change, His Word has no lasting effect.