We dwell in a world filled with millions of voices clamoring for our attention. Our children cry out for our love and care. Our relatives speak to us, expecting us to be involved in their lives. Our neighbors want to visit with us. Our bosses want us to work for them. Our employees want us to pay them. Our politicians want us to give them support. Activists demand that we heed their cries and change according to their demands. Manufacturers and shopkeepers want us to notice their products and give them our money in exchange for their goods.
So intense is the competition for our attention that hundreds of billions of dollars are spent every year on advertising, and there is a whole industry devoted to asking people what they think, in large part trying to understand what they are paying attention to and how others can get them to pay better attention to other things.
Each person only has so much time in any given day, and decisions must be made as to who and what gets prioritized as regards our attention. Do we heed the demands of the family? Do we put the desires of the boss first? Do we devote ourselves to the arena of politics? Where are we going to shop? What are we going to buy? Do we spend more time on self or devote our hours to caring for others? Which news source will we consume? What philosophies will we study? Every individual must answer all these questions and more day after day.
Who we choose to listen to, and who we decide not to listen to, greatly shapes our character and thus our behavior.
There is another, not yet mentioned, who is vying for our attention: God, who calls to men, asking them to pay attention to Him and to His wisdom. As a Father, desiring to instruct His children, God has spoken often to men, and through His word He continues to speak to us.
As Solomon instructed his son, saying, “Hear your father’s instruction (Proverbs 1:8),” so too we, as dutiful children, should listen to God. Nor is God hiding His words, making them hard to find. “Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice (Proverbs 1:20; ESV).” And this wisdom is that which comes from God, teaching us the fear of the Lord (cf. Proverbs 1:29).
In this busy world, filled with so many vying for our attention, are we willing to take the time to listen to God? Are we willing to listen to Christ, who calls us on behalf of the Father.
In Matthew’s gospel, the author recounts that time when he first heard the call of the Lord, “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed him. (Matthew 9:9; ESV)”
Though the account is brief, we should understand the full import of the decision Matthew made. Matthew was a man in the world, a government official, a tax-collector, an individual with responsibilities both civil and social. To follow Christ would require him to neglect some of the demands he had once deemed important and make a change in his priorities. When the call of Christ came, Matthew had to make a choice: who was he going to pay attention to. Matthew chose to listen to Christ, to heed His words, and to follow Him. This choice shaped the rest of Matthew’s life as he continued to faithfully pay attention to Christ above all others.
Matthew understood, and came to more fully understand as the years went by, that in listening to the call of Christ, in paying attention to Christ, he was ultimately listening to God. Matthew also came to know and understand that in listening to Christ, he was gaining true insight and understanding regarding those things that were truly important, for “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet lose his soul (Matthew 16:26).”
That call that Matthew heeded comes to us still today. God is calling us today, through His Son. Will we take the time to listen to the call?
The church of Christ invites you to worship and study with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them with us.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.