Talking & Listening

Little Guys or Big Folks, They Would All Rather Talk Than Listen

Ed, my neighbor next door, noted that I was leaving the house each morning at eight a.m. last week. He was hoping that I was back to work at Walmart. Disappointment replaced his hope, and his indifference surfaced, when he found out I was going to V.B.S. or Vacation Bible School each day. Ed’s claimed if it is vacation time then there should be no school, and he isn’t a fan of the Bible either. When he heard I told Bible Stories to children at V.B.S., he had great sympathy for the children. He was certain the children would experience my story time, as a disturbed nap time. I told Ed that adults might fall asleep easily in church, but children just get restless and squirmy. I told Ed that whether it is little folks or adults they all want to talk rather than listen.

Jesus never seemed to have an issue with folks being willing to listen to him. The stories he told and things he taught were clear and direct. Not only did people listen, but his stories taught folks some lessons they did not always want to hear. Often the hero of the story wasn’t predictable or satisfying to the listeners. One of Jesus’ uncomfortable stories is called the parable of the Good Samaritan, which answers the question – “Who is my neighbor?”

In this story, a man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by robbers, and left at the side of the road half dead. A priest from the temple was also travelling on the road, but when he saw the badly beaten man on the road he passed him by on the other side of the road. A Levite also saw the injured man and did not help him. A Samaritan, whom people disliked because he was an enemy, came down the road and stopped and helped the hurt man. He took the victim of the attack to an inn where he could heal from his injuries, and he paid the innkeeper for his stay at the inn. The story was uncomfortable because the Samaritan should not have been a good guy, and the hero in the story. A neighbor is anyone who needs help.

Once Jesus told a prominent Pharisee who had invited Jesus to his house, that when you give a dinner, don’t invite your friends and your relatives and rich neighbors. If you invite them, they may invite you back and you will be repaid. Jesus said instead when you give banquet invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind and you will be blessed. They cannot repay you, but God will at the resurrection of the righteous. The poor, crippled, lame and blind were seen as valueless, because they had no power or authority, and to invite them for a meal meant you would never get invited back for a meal. Jesus upset many who thought the best thing in life was to have great wealth. He said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. People listened because Jesus said what was unexpected and often uncomfortable. He caused them to think.

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Raymond Maher
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