Nathan W. Bingham
Connecting in a Hyper-Connected World

Be Quick to Read and Slow to Comment

We’ve all been in a conversation in which one person is waiting for you to take a breath so they can interject. They’re not listening. Their mission is to turn the subject of the conversation back to them. It is frustrating. It is rude. And I probably do it to others more than I’d like to admit.

Scripture commands us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). Why? Well, it is a way to show love for your neighbor. To listen takes time—your time. It communicates that you value them. But it also reminds us that we are dependent creatures and should be humble. We don’t know it all. We need others. And ultimately, we need God. Paul tells us that “Faith comes by hearing…” (Romans 10:17). To be slow to hear can have eternal consequences.

How do we “hear” online? We use our eyes. We read articles, blog posts, and status updates. We also use our minds. We consider the context of an author’s words and chew over them to ensure we have “heard” them correctly. Or at least, that’s what we should do. If James were writing today, perhaps he would call us to be quick to read and slow to comment.

In 2014, NPR conducted an April Fools’ Day experiment. They posted an article on Facebook titled, “Why Doesn’t America Read Anymore?” The Facebook comments came flooding in.

“I read every day, and all my friends and family members do too. Are we not America? Or are you just weakly grasping for stories?”

“Just because people aren’t opting to read a dusty copy of War and Peace doesn’t mean we’re having a hard time comprehending things.”

“NPR, wipe those nervous beads of sweat from your brow, sit back, or read & conduct research at a library for another NPR story. There are plenty of bookworms, you just have to look for them.”

If you clicked the article to “hear” NPR’s argument and the evidence behind their statement, you were instead greeted by, “Congratulations, genuine readers…” NPR then explained: “We sometimes get the sense that some people are commenting on NPR stories that they haven’t actually read.” Each comment proved their suspicion. Each comment revealed the reality of why James penned his words in James 1:19. As fallen creatures, we are slow to hear and quick to speak.

The results of their experiment are not isolated to secular Facebook pages. Christians too can be quick to post comments that are disagreeable or seek to rebuke. Oftentimes, these comments attack arguments that were not even made by the author!

When a Christian comments without reading an article, it suggests they don’t value their brother or sister in Christ. To comment before reading an article is to elevate your words above those of the author. And to make it more dishonoring, it is often done on a platform they built—it’s their blog or Facebook page after all.

It’s a sad day when Christians, not unbelievers, are the ones driving many Christian blogs to shut down their comments section. Would it be such a bad thing if Christians only commented on articles that they had read in full? And for those comments to demonstrate that the author had been heard? Remember, not commenting can be wise too: “When words are many, transgression is not lacking” (Proverbs 10:19).

By God’s grace, let’s strive to be “quick to hear, [and] slow to speak” both in our daily conversation and online.

Also published on Medium.