Not Listening: The Sacrifice of Fools


Eccl. 5:1   Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than the sacrifice offered by fools; for they do not know how to keep from doing evil. 2 Never be rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be quick to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon earth; therefore let your words be few.
Eccl. 5:3   For dreams come with many cares, and a fool’s voice with many words.


There is a posture which is to be found in relation to the house of God and this is one of humility. We are invited to come and spend time in God’s holy presence listening. The sacrifice of fools comes from the individual who cannot keep their mouth closed and continually chatters, trying to tell God what to do. In some ways, they cannot help themselves, their lack of listening leading them astray. 

The fool is unaware of the offensive way in which they approach God. Hastiness in prayer and in action means that one fails to see that there is a vast difference between humanity and God. God’s ways are not our ways, and taking the time to recognize how widely God’s divine nature differs from ours means that we will remain quiet and respond within the appropriate limits. Gregory of Nyssa says, “it is both safer and more reverent to believe the majesty of God to be greater than we can understand, than, after circumscribing his glory by our misconceptions, to suppose there is nothing beyond our conception of it.” (Answer to Eunomius’ Second Book) We do not approach God as an equal and this is something must never forget.

Humility should cloak our hearts and our actions, putting others first, and never speaking evil of anyone. When one begins to cook up their own plans and actions without consideration for the heart of God, many words will follow, but they will be a sacrifice of the fool. 


Guarding our mouths and acquiring humility are virtues. The sad truth is that we live in a society that no longer values or honors virtue and yet, it is the call of the Christian life. We are to practice the very nature of Jesus so that we may become more like him. 

Jesus becomes our guide when it comes to the virtue of listening. Even Jesus didn’t presuppose that he knew all the answers and spent long hours in prayer with the Father. If that’s the case, what makes us think that we can go about our Christian lives without God’s leading and direction? When we fail to humble ourselves before the Lord and listen, we will strike out and think that God needs our help to solve problems. What we may fail to see is that we could be a part of the problem. Having a critical eye and spirit is often about justifying ourselves and our own actions. Genuine humility means that we consider others first, underestimating ourselves and praising others. 

Theodore of Tabennesi wrote, “Truly, if a person guards his mouth and acquires humility, the angels will be his friends here below; his soul will be a perfume poured out; the angels will carry his remembrance before God day and night.” (Fragment 2)  That’s the genuine sacrifice of listening. Our lives become a poured out offering, a perfume which sweetens the world and the circumstances in which we find ourselves. 

The practice of listening is a virtue which may have been lost, but needs to be cultivated as we desire to reflect Jesus. 


Lord, thank you for encouraging me to slow down and listen today. Amen. 


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