How many times have you jumped to a conclusion that was wrong about your spouse or your kids or someone else? How many times have you made an assumption about someone’s actions before you knew the whole story? How many arguments and hurt feelings could have been avoided if you listened before you spoke or if you asked more questions before spouting off accusations?
The Bible contains a classic story of jumping to a conclusion in Joshua 22. The backstory: God had promised the nation of Israel that they could inhabit the land west of the Jordan River. Part of the nation decided to establish their homes on the east side of the river. For seven years the men from the east side crossed over and helped their fellow Israelites to establish their homes on the west side. Finally, it was time to go back over the Jordan to their families.
Before these men crossed back over, they built a replica of the tabernacle’s bronze altar. It’s at this point that the men of the West jumped to conclusions. Joshua 22:12 tells us that they immediately gathered their armies “at Shiloh to go to war against them.” It didn’t take long for the men on the West side to want to kill the men of the East side because they ASSUMED that this replica was an act of rebellion against God. They accused them, saying, “How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against Him now?” (Joshua 22:16)
The men of the West side never bothered to ask the men of the East side why they had built the altar. They jumped to the conclusion that they knew their motives. Sound familiar? This is when arguments often get started. To their credit, these men never responded in like manner. Instead, they calmly explained why they did what they did. They said, “We did it for fear that someday your descendants might say to ours, ‘What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? The Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you! You have no share in the Lord.’ So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the Lord. That is why we said, ‘Let us get ready and build an altar—but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.’ On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the Lord. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the Lord.’” (Joshua 22:24–27)
How wrong the men of the West had been. Instead of rebelling against God, the replica had been built to promote worship of God. All this tension could have been avoided if they had listened first. That’s what Proverbs 18:13 addresses. It says, “He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame.”
I hope this blog promotes more CONVERSATION instead of ACCUSATION. I hope it helps us to listen more before we speak. It’s more important to UNDERSTAND than to worry that we are UNDERSTOOD. Here’s to fewer arguments and more dialogue.