Christianity 201

May 21, 2013

Keep Your Words Few

This may seem a strange theme for a blog that isn’t exactly known for its brevity, but there is so much on scripture about concision in speech that you could almost say the scriptures offer a doctrine of reticence which is part of a larger theology of Christian character. Simply put, a Christ-follower is one who knows when to speak and when to be silent, because in too much talking…

You could accidentally betray a confidence:

Proverbs 20:19 (NIV)

19 A gossip betrays a confidence;
so avoid anyone who talks too much

Your prayers could become a religious formula:

Matthew 6:7 (NIV)

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

Your words could simply get lost in the sea of communications:

Ecclesiastes 12:12a (MSG)

12-13 But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books…

You could simply look foolish:

Proverbs 17:28 (NIV)

28 Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent,
and discerning if they hold their tongues.

You could even say something to God you might regret:

Job 40:4-5 (NLT)

“I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers?
I will cover my mouth with my hand.
I have said too much already.
I have nothing more to say.”

Or you might simply forget who God is, and become to casual with Him:

Ecclesiastes 5:2 (NIV)

Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few…

Or publicly uncover an inconsistency in your life:

James 3:10 (NASB)

10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

I was once asked to explain the term concision to someone, and I said this, “Imagine that you are trying to sell something through an advertisement in a newspaper or online where you are being charged $2.00 per word. You map out what you want to say, but then you trim it back to see how efficiently you can say the same thing. Your edited version actually will have greater impact.”

It is true in speech, in sermons, in blogging, in printed books, etc.  So many voices are competing for your attention, and in a bullet point word, sometimes less is more. Skye Jethani recently tweeted:

Many books should be articles. Many articles should be blog posts. Many blog posts should be tweets. And many tweets should not be.

We all feel we contribute significance by our words, therefore we want to talk, we want to be heard, we want to influence, we want to weigh in on the topic of the day. But in the end, we are better to practice an economy of words; to let our words be few. It’s not just good sense, it’s scriptural.