Yesterday morning, as I was sipping coffee and trying to wake up before leaving for work, a woman from my Sunday School class messaged me on Facebook. She had come across a video that reminded her of my most recent lesson. In our discussion during the lesson, we had asked how we can know when to speak and when to be silent. So she wanted to share this video with me.
The video was something of a slideshow converted into a YouTube video. Perhaps it started out as the PowerPoint presentation for a sermon. The title of the slideshow was “When To Be Silent.” On each slide, there was a reference for a Bible verse along with a short summary of when we should be silent, according to the Bible.
As the video played, I periodically paused. On one of my desktop screens I had the video up. On the other I opened a browser tab for BibleGateway.com and a blank Word document. I then looked up and copied each verse.
This I did to be a Berean, and I have made a practice of it for as long as I can remember because the book of Acts says of the Berean Jews Paul preached the gospel to that they were of a nobler sort because they “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
So I drank my cup of coffee and worked. I smoked my pipe, and continued to work. Then I drank another cup of coffee, and finished up. At the end, I had written my own summary impressions of what each verse from the slideshow video had to say about when to be silent. These, then, were my findings. And I hope you find them useful.
Watch your mouth!
A man of quick temper acts foolishly,
and a man of evil devices is hated.
Be careful what you say when you are angry, because anger clouds good judgment and discretion.
If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame.
Listen to the question fully first rather than answering it based on an assumption of what someone is going to say.
On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.
Don’t rely on just one person’s testimony to establish another person’s guilt. People say things that aren’t true, whether because of intentional dishonesty or because of faulty reasoning and incomplete information. Getting the input of two or three people safeguards against this to some extent.
And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.
This passage isn’t about mere talk, but about actions which offend brothers and sisters in Christ needlessly, even where our conscience and a careful reading of God’s Word give us the freedom to. However, the principles of this passage can and should translate into how we guard our tongue. We should not use our Christian liberty to speak in a contemptuous way by quarreling with those who have weaker consciences and are genuinely concerned about offending God, especially where their restraint is not itself inherently ungodly.
A wise son hears his father’s instruction,
but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
When those in authority over us are instructing or rebuking us, we should listen and consider rather than firing back a retort and dismissing what they tell us.
Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore, let your words be few.
We should take care what we say rather than saying whatever pops into our heads. God hears everything we say. We will give an account to him for our words, whether they were good or evil, wise or foolish, and whether they built others up or tore them down, pointed them in the right direction or led them astray.
Fools mock at the guilt offering,
but the upright enjoy acceptance.
We should guard against jaded scorn toward attempts at restitution, and instead take pleasure in someone apologizing or making amends for their indiscretions and sins.
All the words of my mouth are righteous;
there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
We should hope and strive that this could be true of us. This should be our gold standard of what it means to guard our tongues, that we could honestly say this and it be true of us.
Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
We typically think of someone proving their wisdom by saying wise things. However, knowledge and understanding are shown also in patiently waiting to speak, and in listening or considering first.
Bite your tongue!
The heart knows its own bitterness,
and no stranger shares its joy.
We are under no obligation to share our most intimate upsets and excitements with people we don’t know. This is especially pertinent to those of my generation who value authenticity above all else.
Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.
We must not say things that are untrue, corrupt, or malicious.
A worthless man plots evil,
and his speech is like a scorching fire.
We should take care in listening to what a worthless man says, since worthless men plotting evil will say things which are untrue; they will exaggerate and insinuate things beyond the truth to hurt and destroy those they are plotting against.
A dishonest man spreads strife,
and a whisperer separates close friends.
We should note those who are known for being worthless and dishonest men and expect that the things they say are intended to set people against one another, even close friends. Their testimony should not be trusted, and we should be very careful to set ourselves apart from them by being honest and forthright in everything we ourselves say.
Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
We are given two great commandments, according to Jesus: to love the Lord our God with everything – that is the first; the second is like it, to love our fellow man as we love ourselves. This makes perfect sense when we consider from Genesis that God made man in his image. If there is significance in praising God with our words, there is also a significance working in the opposite direction when we use our words to hate our fellow man who is created in God’s image.
A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls.
When we fail to bridle our tongues, we leave ourselves incredibly vulnerable to being conquered by sin, the world, and Satan.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
The Lord Jesus was not insulting his accusers and adversaries when he called them things like white-washed tombs, blind guides, and sons of the Devil. He was accurately describing them. Yet he did this in perfect measure, without exaggeration, spite, or hyperbole. And whether he was calling them those things or was silent as a lamb led to the slaughter, he entrusted himself to the Father rather than becoming desperate, anxious, or bitter.
If you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.
What we say and listen to has great power, whether for good or evil.
A foolish son is ruin to his father,
and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.
Fathers and husbands can be worn down and demoralized by the things their children and wives say.
Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,”
will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations,
We should never affirm ungodliness by agreeing with those who are practicing or advocating it. Going along with wickedness and sin by flattering it makes us complicit and will rightly earn us the contempt of those outside our context looking in on the situation.
In all toil there is profit,
but mere talk tends only to poverty.
Merely talking about work can be a front for laziness, whereas work – even the lowliest sorts – is more profitable than merely talking about work.
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue
keeps himself out of trouble.
We can save ourselves a lot of trouble by bridling our tongue and watching what we say and do not say. Knowledge and understanding come first and foremost from listening, and even just the appearance of listening and considering will earn us favor with others who perceive us to be patient rather than hasty and measured rather than reckless.