"Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep you mouth shut." – Proverbs 10:19 NLT
Let's face it, our words can get us into trouble. There was a popular saying during WWII that said, "Loose lips sink ships." In other words, because of the reality of spies, it could be dangerous to speak about things concerning the war because you never knew who might be listening. A simple case of gossip could have devastating consequences for the entire nation. Our tongue can get us into trouble. James wasn't a huge fan of the tongue. "And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself" (James 3:6 NLT). But the tongue can also be used for good. Solomon says, "The words of the godly are like sterling silver" (Proverbs 10:20 NLT). They have value and worth. He also reminds us that the words of the godly can be used to encourage many. "The mouth of the godly person gives wise advice" (Proverbs 10:31 NLT) and "The lips of the godly speak helpful words" (Proverbs 10:32 NLT).
But the truth is, we all struggle with knowing what to say and when to say it. We speak too quickly and we can too often say the wrong thing and the wrong time. We mean well, but we can still speak words that harm rather than help. We are too often too quick with an answer. We fail to think about what we are going to say and we we tend to think what we have to say is always right. And then we wonder why our words blow up in our face and end up doing damage to the ones we love. Maybe we need to heed Solomon's advice. "Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut" (Proverbs 10:19 NLT). This verse reminds me of one of the Old Testament prophets. His name was Ezekiel and he was given the unenviable task of speaking the convicting word of God to the people of Israel. They were a rebellious and stubborn group of people who refused to listen, and Ezekiel, being human, found himself getting frustrated with their lack of obedience and response. God had appointed Ezekiel a watchman over Israel. He was told that every time he received a message from God, he was to tell it to the people. God was going to hold him personally responsible for the deaths of anyone whom he failed to warn. If he warned them and they failed to listen, then their death was own their own hands. So it was vital that Ezekiel say ONLY what God had told him to say. It would have been dangerous for Ezekiel to ad-lib and come up with his own version of the truth. So God did him a favor. "Then the Spirit came into me and set me on my feet. He spoke to me and said, “Go to your house and shut yourself in. There, son of man, you will be tied with ropes so you cannot go out among the people. And I will make your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth so that you will be speechless and unable to rebuke them, for they are rebels. But when I give you a message, I will loosen your tongue and let you speak. Then you will say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’." (Ezekiel 3:24-27 NLT). God struck Ezekiel dumb. He could only speak when he spoke what God had given him to say. His own words got stuck in his throat. If he was angry and wanted to read the Israelites the riot act, he was unable to do so. If he got frustrated and wanted to give them a peace of his mind, he couldn't. If he felt like he had some good advice they needed to hear, he had to keep it to himself. He could only speak when he spoke what God had give him to say. Think about it. Wouldn't that be a great restriction for all of us to be under? Wouldn't it be better for all parties involved if the only things we could say were what God had given us to say? Our tongues get us into trouble when we speak on our own behalf and according to our own "wisdom." We say what is on our mind. We respond in anger of frustration. We give what we think is good advice, but it ends up being ungodly. It's not biblically based or Spirit motivated. James tells us, "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry" (James 1:19 NLT). We need to learn to shut up and listen. We need to hear what's being said by others before we determine what it is we are going to say in response. And we need to learn to listen to God, so that when we do speak, we say what He would have us say. There are times when silence is truly golden.
Father, keep me from speaking my own words. I do it far too often. Help me learn to listen to You and to keep my advice to myself. Let me learn to hear from You so that I might speak for You. Forgive me for the damage I have done with my tongue. Give me an ever-growing sensitivity to Your counsel and an increasing desire to say only what You would have me say. Amen