Attention-Giving vs. Attention-Getting

By Rev. Tim Yee

April 15, 2018

Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

Luke 8:40-46


Yesterday, we reflected on the idea that Jesus was a revolutionary communicator who prioritized attentiveness as a core aspect of his leadership. In today’s passage, we see Jesus in action, living out this principle of attentiveness on at least three levels:

A very dense crowd of people filling a street.Jesus was attentive to the Father’s will. Though this passage about the bleeding woman in the crowd doesn’t explicitly say that Jesus was following the will of his Father, Luke reveals Jesus’s self-identity as one who prioritized the Father: “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). Passages in John’s Gospel make it clear that the Eternal Son explicitly paid attention to the Father’s activity: “whatever the Father does, the Son also does” and “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me” (John 5:19 and 8:28). Jesus prioritized giving attention to what the Father wanted him to do and not what the crowds expected of him.

Jesus was attentive to himself. When the woman touched Jesus’s garment and no one could tell him who did it, he insisted, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Though crowds surrounded and jostled him, he could sense something had occurred to him physically.

I wonder if I sometimes miss opportunities when I’m not attentive enough to myself. One common word of advice is to ask yourself the HALT questions before making a decision: Are you hungry? Are you angry? Are you lonely? Are you tired? Being unaware of physical or emotional deficiencies can lead to bad decisions, which in turn undermine a leader’s ability to enact effective change. Jesus modeled being attentive to himself as part of his ministry.

Jesus was attentive to others. Jesus was surrounded by a great crowd, and the disciples found it incredulous that he would even ask who touched him (Mark 5:31). Jesus made time to single out this woman who was suffering physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Jesus not only made time for a particular person in a crowd of people, he also paid attention to her entire context, declaring her clean for all to hear.

Attention-giving can be especially difficult in a culture where attention-getting is so highly valued. Being attentive can be hard amidst Facebook posts, work deadlines, and endless emails. But numerous opportunities to join God in his kingdom work abound daily for those who cultivate a lifestyle of attentiveness to God’s will, to self-care, and to others’ needs.

Something to Think About:

“Following Jesus’ pattern… is subversive. To place such value on attention-giving is an act of treason abasing values and habits that stand as pillars of our culture. Attentiveness upends the sacrosanct priority normally given to efficiency, accomplishment, self-expression, and seeing days go just-as-planned. If we choose this path, some of the things we would prefer to hold tightly may indeed be lost. The person before us, however, will receive what they so desperately need: our full attention—ears and eyes, heart and soul” (The Revolutionary Communicator, 19).

Something to Do:

Make it a priority to practice a spiritual discipline this week that helps you be attentive to God and to yourself. For many, that would include at least one of the following: solitude, silence, and stillness. As you connect with God and your own sense of well-being, ask for help recognizing a need in your busy week. Perhaps you will recognize a need that you would have otherwise missed or dealt with in a different way had you not been as attentive.


Lord, help me be attentive to the agenda you have for me today, as I seek to love you and others in the work before me. Reveal to me a person that I can affect for the better. Show me if I can disconnect from my preoccupations in some way—whether emotionally, physically, spiritually, or intellectually. And help me recognize when I am too distracted to take care of myself. Forgive me for trying to lead without being attentive like Jesus. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary.

Rev. Tim Yee

Contributor Emeritus & Pastor

Rev. Tim Yee is Pastor of Union Church of Los Angeles, a 100-year-old church in downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo District where he serves a diverse church of professionals, internment camp survivors, artists and homeless. He serves on the Board of Union Rescue Mission where he leads the P...

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