Feeling particularly convicted this morning by James 3:1-12. Too close for comfort. Too recent an experience to dodge the bullet. And though “no human being can tame the tongue”, it doesn’t alter the fact that it is sin to “set a fire” or spread “deadly poison.” What to do? Confess, repent, run to the cross. Be forgiven, be washed, and by His abundant grace get back in the game enabled by the tongue-controlling power of the Holy Spirit. But not feeling much like typing out some thoughts.
So, I do what I often do in this situation, I go back and look up past meals for some food for thought to chew on. This time I get a hit on some thinking from 2008 that was sparked by a reading in Proverbs and makes reference to James 3. Man, I wish I had come across this earlier this week.
Sharing with you what’s ministered to me this morning.
This morning, my reading in Proverbs reminds me of some sage advice from a guy who’s “been there done that.” His advice? “Keep your mouth shut.” Well . . . not quite that harsh or blunt . . . but not too far off.
“He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.”
(Proverbs 17:27-28 NKJV)
“The one who knows much says little; an understanding person remains calm. Even dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise; as long as they keep their mouths shut, they’re smart.”
(Proverbs 17:27-28 MSG)
Exhortations about restrained use of the tongue are relatively common throughout Proverbs . . . add to that James’ analysis of how hard it is to tame the tongue (James 3:1-12) . . . and anyone with their “ears on” to the Scriptures should realize that this muscle in our mouth can get us into a lot of trouble. We need to be thoughtful on how we use it.
It’s interesting that Solomon says that it’s the person who is knowledgeable and “gets it” who is very selective about his words and is able to stay calm in spirit. You might think that smart people should be the ones dominating conversations because . . . . well, they’re smart! But it seems that our God . . . through the inspiration of the Scriptures and the pen of Solomon . . . sees it differently. And as I noodle on it, a couple of possible reasons come to mind as to why God thinks that true wisdom and smarts manifests itself in few and carefully selected words.
One reason, I think, is that God values humility in us. Too many smart people know they’re smart and want others to know they’re smart too. But ya’ gotta think that humility says, “Maybe I think I know something or two . . . but that’s just by the grace of God.” And so, if my smarts are God given smarts . . . and any insight I think I have is God given insight . . . and my arguments are reflective of godly wisdom . . . then I probably should be cautious in filtering what comes out of my mouth. Not just the content . . . but the spirit conveyed by my words. Paul says our speech should always be with grace (Col. 4:6). Our testimony is as much wrapped up in how we say something as it is in what we say. And maybe that’s why a pre-disposition to few words is smart. It minimizes the chances of saying something we didn’t mean to say . . . or saying it in a manner which we didn’t intend. Humble man . . . restrained tongue. I think they go together.
Second reason why I think God wants us to be people of few, well-selected words, is because it is an indicator of our trust in Him. Proverbs 17 says that a smart man is a man of few words and that a man of understanding is of calm spirit. A churned up spirit seems to be the source of many words. The need to justify myself . . . or establish myself . . . or confront the situation could be a recipe for disaster in terms of how I use my words. But to trust in the Lord . . . to allow Him to justify . . . to wait on Him for the right words . . . that leads to a calm spirit. Jesus was a man of few words . . . you think about it, He wasn’t a big debater. Well chosen words . . . well thought out answers . . . and then He left it to people to digest and respond. Even during His fake trial before the Jewish religious leaders and his interrogation before Pilate, He was careful what questions He chose to engage in and really used very few words in those He responded to.
So some pretty sound advice this morning. A good check for the guy in this chair on his “tongue management.” Few words . . . calm spirit . . . holding my peace . . . an observer more than a commentator. Good stuff to consider.
Father, I marvel this morning at the breadth of Your Word. From the high and lofty insights into Your awesome character and works . . . to the intensely practical, day in and day out, use of words. Give me wisdom, Lord . . . I desire a spirit of humility . . . I want to learn to trust You more, to rest in You more . . . and then, let my words be few . . . and well chosen.
By Your grace. For Your glory.