7. Questions have context that you need to know. So many thoughts and circumstances and feelings may be feeding into this question that we don't know about or understand. Careful listening may help you pick up those things. It may be that there is just a small clue that some crucial circumstance is behind the question. If you catch the clue, because you are listening carefully, you may be able to draw that out and be able to answer the question so much more helpfully.

8. Questions are made up of words. Words have meanings that are formed by a person's experience and education. These words may not carry the same meaning for both you and the questioner. If you want to answer what they are really asking, you must listen very carefully. When the possibility exists that their question is rooted in a different understanding of a word, we will be wise to talk about the meaning of our words before we talk about the answer to the question. I find that talking about the definitions of words in questions usually produces the answer to the questions.

9. Proverbs 8:13 says it is our "folly" to answer before we hear. That is, it will make us a fool. One reason for this is that almost all premature answers are based on thinking we know all we need to know. But that is "foolish." Our attitude should be: What can I learn from this question? The fool thinks he knows all he needs to know.

10. And finally Proverbs 8:13 says that it is our "shame" to answer before we hear. What if you are asked publicly, "My wife and I have had serious problems and we were wondering . . ." and you cut the questioner off by giving your answer about the value of counseling and what counselors might be helpful. But then they say, "Well, actually, what I was going to say was, "My wife and I have had serious problems and we were wondering, now that our counseling is over and things are better than ever, how you would suggest that we celebrate?" Then you will be shamed for not listening.

Still learning to listen with you,

Pastor John


John Piper has been the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 1980. He has authored numerous best-selling books, including The Passion of Jesus Christ, Don't Waste Your Life and Desiring God. You will find 25 years of online sermons, articles and other God-centered resources from the ministry of John Piper at  www.desiringgod.org. He also has a daily radio program, called "Desiring God," which can be accessed online at www.desiringGod.org/radio.