Hearing and Speech


Our two grandsons, Carter and Sawyer, both had tubes put in their ears this past week. The procedure involves a small incision and placement of tubes to drain excess fluid behind the ear drum. It is a relatively minor procedure designed to prevent recurrent infection as well as aid in hearing problems and speech delays. A couple of spiritual applications may be in order.

First, there is the matter of hearing. A buildup of fluid behind the ear drum prevents it from vibrating properly and passing sound along on its journey to the inner ear. It is like trying to hear underwater. The problem is not unlike what happens when the ear canal is plugged with wax. In both cases, something must be removed to restore proper hearing.

In discussing the proper reception of the word of truth, James exhorts us, saying, “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (Jas. 1:21). Proper listening to God’s word is hindered by sinful behavior. In his commentary on James, William Barclay says that, when used in a medical sense, the original term translated “filthiness” can refer to “wax in the ear” (57). If so, then, James is telling his readers to get the wax out so that they might be able to humbly receive the implanted word which is able to save the soul. What sin keeps us from truly receiving the life-giving word of truth? We must put aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness in order to properly receive God’s word.

A second spiritual application involves the matter of speaking. Our daughter, who is a speech pathologist, tells us that proper speech development is dependent upon proper hearing. Output is determined by input. As Christians, accuracy in communicating the message of Christ is dependent upon humble reception of God’s truth. This is true of the message we speak as well as the message we live. James warns his readers, saying, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (Jas. 1:22). Faulty listening skills result in distorted messages. We must get the wax out—put aside filthiness and all that remains of wickedness—so that we might prove to be effective communicators of Christ’s message to the world.

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