We are a presumptuous people. We have our opinions. We like to make our opinions know.
Peter is the classic example of the foot in the mouth guy. He led with his heart more than his head. More than once Jesus had to put him in his place.
Then there was Job and his friends. They spoke and speculated on the character and nature of God. They boasted of their righteousness. But before we get to the end of the book, they are left speechless:
“Then Job answered the LORD and said: “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”” (Job 40:3–5, ESV)
How many times have you uttered words you would later regret? How many times have you waxed poetically about something where you did not have a clue? You have watched it before. You listened to the person who sets themselves up as an expert and then speaks out of ignorance. How many times have you been that person?
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26, ESV)
The point is to think before you speak. Many times it is better not to say anything at all. Consider the following situations:
When it makes a bad situation worse
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7, ESV)
There are many times we have nothing of value to add. The only thing our words will do is stir the pot. Our daughter is ten years old. Her younger brothers are five. There are many times when she will try to argue with them. She is right. She is more mature and knows what she is speaking. But she is not going to convince her brothers. I have found myself telling her that it doesn’t do much good to argue with a five-year-old.
We are not much different. There is no arguing with a fool. But we try. How many times have you found yourself in a futile conversation?Just walk away, but be careful you are not the fool.
When you are not talking to the right person
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15, ESV)
There is this thing called gossip. I often say that if you can’t say something about a person when they are present, you should not say it when they are absent. Nothing will kill a church or other organization faster than gossip.
We complain to all the wrong people. We grumble about what is happening with our peers. But we never address anyone who can do anything about it. Stop complaining and do something about it. And instead of opening your mouth to complain, open your mouth to ask how you can help.
When you are listening
Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” (Matthew 13:14, ESV)
Silencing our tongues start with silencing our thoughts. One of the things that make us bad listeners is because we are thinking about what we will say next. Seek to listen. Seek to hear. Seek to understand. Trust the Holy Spirit to give you the words when you need the words.
Have you ever been frustrated when you are sharing with someone but they are not listening? Before you finish speaking, they respond with something from left field that does not relate to what you were attempting to convey. Don’t be that person. Listen!
When you want to hear God
The most important time for silence is before God. Silence not only your lips but your heart. Do this when you are listening to your pastor preach. Do this when you are studying the Bible. Our hearts are filled with rebuttals. We do not easily receive what we hear on face value. Don’t get me wrong. There is a time to be discerning. There is a time for rebuttal. But don’t reject something before you give it a chance and fully understand. This is ever truer when it comes to our relationship with God.
We have our plans, and we have our ideas. We get out ahead of God. Then we ask him to come along for the ride and get behind our plans. I am reminded of Jeremiah 29:11. Here God says:
“I know the plans I have for you.”
Notice that it is God plans that he has for us. It is not the plans we have for God to prosper. Be still. Listen. He will show you a better way. The #1 rule for listening is to stop talking.
Questions for Reflection
- What are some other times to be silent?
- Whey are we so presumptuous?
- How do you learn to remain silent when you need to be silent?
- Share your comments.