Prov. 18:13; 10:19; 17:27; 15:28; 31:8-9
One of the things that has really changed over the last century or so is our attitude towards silence. Possibly due to new technology, or possibly due to the fast pace in which we live, we seem to have a strict aversion to it. Once we come into a house, what’s the first thing we tend to do? Turn on a TV or music, because heaven forbid we don’t fill up the silence with some noise.
This dislike for silence has definitely spilled over into our interpersonal relationships. Try to go on a date or spend time with a friend, and the only type of silence is an awkward one. We feel that there has to be something said, even if there’s nothing noteworthy to say.
This need to fill in the gaps with talk is not in the spirit of Proverbs (or the rest of God’s word). Solomon has plenty of warnings to us about talking too much, and here are some of them. . .
• How many times has my wife complained to me about not listening to her? I have a very active brain, and while someone is talking, I’m usually forming the response to what they’re saying before they even finish. But according to this verse, it’s not something to be proud of. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
• All of us are sinful people, and sin has affected every area of our existence. Therefore, it shouldn’t really surprise us that this includes our speech as well. But an interesting point to be made here is that if you talk long enough, eventually something foolish or sinful will come out. The odds are against you. If you let your words be few, then you have less chance of letting something negative slip out.
• Both 17:27 and 15:28 make basically the same point, but with different emphases. Notice that 17:27 links restraint in your speech with being “even-tempered.” In other words, he’s advocating controlling your tongue, especially when your temper is about make you say something you’ll later regret. In 15:28, he’s telling us that one mark of a righteous man is that he weighs his answers instead of just “[gushing] out” with whatever’s on our mind.
But as always, Scripture provides us with a perfect balance. As we’ll see in a later book by Solomon, there’s a time to be silent (or keep our words to a minimum), and there’s a time to speak up. What’s the time to speak up? Well, according to 31:8-9, it’s when there’s injustice in front of us, when the powerful are trampling the helpless. When someone has no voice to raise to defend themselves, then one of our jobs is to give them that voice.
What’s the most obvious application here? Well, there is a certain class of people in the United States who are routinely marked for death. They have no legal right to protection, and it’s just assumed in the public square that it should be legal to kill them. The elephant in the room, the fact that someone’s basic humanity is being denied, is rarely debated. I’m talking, of course, about the preborn child. We’ll get into what Scripture has to say about this issue at another time. But for now, I just want to point out that this seems like the most immediate application here. Just food for thought.
Father, so often I speak up when I need to be silent, and I keep my mouth shut when injustice prevails. Please give me wisdom, and courage.