Christianity 201

August 26, 2017

OMG: Hearing it and Saying It

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.NLT

Romans 12:2 Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.The Message

This week I had a discussion with someone on the topic of knowing God by his name. At one very brief point in the conversation, this person surprised me by saying they were not particularly offended by people saying “Oh, my God” or using the printed form, “OMG,” because unless identified or qualified, the God we serve is not necessarily the one being referenced. It may be the third of the Ten Commandments being broken if the reference is to something else.

Exodus 20:7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

It’s easy to take offense at the use of this phrase, because we are often taking it personally, but there’s no guarantee that it’s our God they’re talking about. For example, I have often lamented the general nature the term “god” (lower case) has and in so doing I appeal to this quotation by E. Stanley Jones, which regular readers here have seen before:

“When we say we begin with God, we begin with our idea of God, and our idea of God is not God. Instead, we ought to begin with God’s idea of God, and God’s idea of God is Christ”

In other words, while the Old Testament points to “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (see Exodus 3:6, 3:15, 3:16, 4:5 for the specific phrase in the KJV; and also look at these references) in the New Testament we speak of “the God as revealed in Jesus Christ.” That’s our God.

So on the one hand, I despair over the need to so clearly define who the God is of which we speak, and yet on the other hand I also find the “OMG” phrase to totally grate on me; but I’ve never really held the two situations in tension. The result I suppose is to be able relax a little and grant the non-churched person (or the non-Jesus-follower, or the secularist) using the phrase some grace.

…Unless…

The problem comes when believers use such phrases. (See our first key verse above.) Has that happened to you?

We covered this topic here before in a 2012 article called Exemplary Speech. In it, the writer quoted these key verses; notice the references to speech:

Command and teach these things.  Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Tim 4:11-13

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:7-8

“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from deceitful speech. 1 Peter 3:10

Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? James 3:5-11

As I’ve written previously, “OMG” and it’s equivalent are a line I simply will not cross, but it’s become increasingly common to hear believers lapse into using the phrase or typing the acronym.  For us, “God” is the God of Abraham; is the God revealed in Jesus. It should hurt us when we hear another Christian fall into the cultural speech pattern of using this and we ought to gently correct them.

With a non-believer, we actually have an Evangelistic opportunity presented to us. Like the Apostle Paul’s speech at Mars Hill in Acts 17:22ff, we can say, to paraphrase him, ‘This God who you make reference to without really knowing him…allow me to introduce you!’


Postscript: The person with whom I had the discussion skirts the problem entirely; when reading a passage of scripture together this week, he glossed over the word God in the text, substituting “The Most High.”

February 14, 2017

Saying “I Love You”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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I’m hoping I will tell my wife I love her several times today. It’s not only Valentine’s Day, but it’s also our anniversary, and a special one at that.

Words like “I Love You” that can make a difference.

Last year we introduced a new (to us) author, Robin Patchen who lives in Edmond, Oklahoma and is the author of three books and blogs at Quid Pro Quills. The site actually features six different writers, and today we’re featuring another one, . As usual, click the title below and encourage these authors by reading their works at the original site.

Words

What are the last words you spoke to the last person with whom you spoke?

To be fair, I’ll share mine: “I love you, too.”

But if you’d heard my words yesterday, they would’ve sounded less beautiful. More… ungrateful. Untrusting. Unkind.

Words have the ability to encourage or the ability to destroy. When you add emotions, exhaustion, and ego to the mix, communication can be a minefield. The paradox? We frequently mete our harshest words to the individuals we love the most.

Why is that? Don’t you hate it? I do. I want to be a better listener. A better problem-solver. I want to end a conversation with someone knowing that I’ve affirmed him. In times of disagreement, my desire is that when the conversation is over, the problem has truly been resolved instead of postponed. I want to stop falling into the same speech traps that constantly leave me disappointed and defensive.

The gift of speech is one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given, but I’m so inept at utilizing the spoken word. That’s why the Proverbs wield power. These wise sayings help me to love God and my neighbor.

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Proverbs 12:25

“He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

“It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” Proverbs 20:3

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

Sometimes the best use of the tongue is to keep it sealed behind our lips. Silence is a powerful form of communication. The best Communicator who ever lived, Jesus Christ, chose to remain silent even when He was unjustly accused and on the way to His crucifixion. I would’ve been screaming. But He was silent. He knew He was right. Therefore, He had nothing else to say. His final action of love was all that was necessary.

It’s tough to control our words. We should think before we speak, and if we do have to say difficult words, they must be spoken in love. One of the scriptures most difficult to apply is this: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”

Father, give me wisdom. Use my speech to glorify You and encourage others. Make my words agents of Your healing.


Check out these related C201 articles:

December 12, 2015

Isaiah’s Commission

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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I want to look at the opening verses to Isaiah 6, but I do this knowing that so many have covered this passage online.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

In particular, I want to consider verse 5, underlined above. Here is how some translations render the first part of it:

  • Woe is me! for I am undone (KJV)
  • Woe is me! For I am ruined, Because I am a man of [ceremonially] unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips (AMP)
  • I’m doomed! Everything I say is sinful, and so are the words of everyone around me. (CEV)
  • I will be destroyed. I am not pure enough to speak to God, and I live among people who are not pure enough to speak to him. (ERV)
  • It’s Doomsday! I’m as good as dead! Every word I’ve ever spoken is tainted— blasphemous even! And the people I live with talk the same way, using words that corrupt and desecrate. (MSG)
  • It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips.  (NLT)
  • I am in so much trouble! I’m ruined! I’m just a human being—fallible and stammering. My lips are encrusted with filth; and I live among people just like me. (VOICE)

I think you see the pattern. What brings this self-condemnation?

  • I have seen the King, the Lord All-Powerful. (ESV)
  • I’ve seen with my very own eyes none other than the King, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies. (VOICE)
  • I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces! (CEB)

What is to be seen here is the great contrast between the power of God and the sinfulness of Isaiah. Now we might think the contrast should between man’s sin and God’s holiness, but there is a sense in which I believe his power emanates from who he is. To say that a different way, if we were to meet another human who had a level of righteousness that approached that of our holy God, that person would command great power and authority simply as a natural consequence of who they were and the type of stuff they were made of. While there is mention later in the passage of God’s rule, the contrast in verse 5 is to tremendous power.

The Reformation Study Bible notes a parallel between Isaiah 6:5 and Luke 5:8:

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” (NLT)

and also Job 42:

I had only heard about you before,
    but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
I take back everything I said,
    and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (NLT)

But why does Isaiah’s sinful state get reflected in what is on his lips? J. Parsons writes:

Not because the depravity, is merely superficial, or resting on the surface; but because the depravity of the heart rends and rages without, and finds vent in the tongue.

The mouth is a barometer of what is taking place in the heart. Luke 6:45 states:

The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. (BSB*)

Isaiah’s speech is his reference point for the contrast being presented here. I wonder how he would phrase this in our world, where more is expressed through our keyboards and smartphones than through our voices? Somehow ‘I am a man of unclean fingers’ or ‘Everything I’ve ever typed is tainted’ sounds awkward, but the things that occupy our media expression are also a reflection of the state of our hearts.

How would what we blog, post to Facebook, Tweet, text, etc. look to us if we found ourselves standing in the presence of Almighty God? And what about our speech?

 


*We’ve never cited BSB here before, it refers to the Berean Study Bible available at BibleHub.com


 

 

November 2, 2015

When to Speak, And When Not To

Several years ago at Thinking Out Loud we linked to Carole McDonnell’s blog; it’s always great to return years and years later and find people faithfully writing.  This piece stood out from a number she’s written over the past months. I later discovered this will be her third piece here at Christianity 201. Click the title below to read this at source.

A soft answer turns away wrath

 A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.  Proverbs 15:1

This is a verse that has saved the lives, reputation, and livelihood of many people throughout the ages. It is found in the Book of Proverbs,  book of great wisdom that is designed to protect its reader from sin, shame, poverty, and death. There is much in Proverbs about anger, and it behoves the reader to take these admonition to heart.

It is generally a part of human nature to defend itself, whether the “self” is right or wrong. It is also generally a part of human nature not to allow one’s self to be intimidated. Humans are also insightful. They can perceive egotistical and subtle human pride in the rebukes, corrections, and scoldings they receive from when certain teachers, officers of the law, pastors or others use or abuse their “authority” to lecture them and triumph over them.  Rebukes can be given at the correct or incorrect time, with the wrong or right attitude, with a desire to help or a desire to assert the rebuker’s pride. Those with power, however, often become so identified with their power that they do not wish to be challenged.

In American culture, there have been many instances of cruelty done by police, slaveholders, financiers, and others in some kind of authority. Sadly, those in power have often won, especially when there was no videotape or fair-minded judge to challenge them. The guilty have often triumphed over the weak even when the laws were fair.

The Preacher writes in Ecclesiastes 4:1, “Again, I observed all the oppression that takes place under the sun. I saw the tears of the oppressed, with no one to comfort them. The oppressors have great power, and their victims are helpless.”

The Preacher also writes in Ecclesiastes 7:17, “Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself? Do not be excessively wicked and do not be a fool. Why should you die before your time? It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them.”

Those who believe in God trust God to defend them and to show them when to speak and when to be silent.

The Psalmist writes: “How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?” Psalm 13:2

He also writes: “O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.”  Psalm 25:2

The Preacher also states, “I said to myself, ‘In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.'”

A victim might or might not get justice inside a court of law, but learning to answer one’s oppressor carefully by “biting one’s lip” can protect one’s life, livelihood and health. As the Preacher says in Ecclesiates 9:4, “There is hope only for the living. As they say, ‘It’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion!'” The victims of oppression in many countries have learned to survive the unjust authorities over them by knowing when to use gentle –if cowardly– answers. This is how the ancestors of Black people survived during the early days of lynching and perhaps this will be necessary in the modern day when the counterpart of lynching is also prevalent.

September 7, 2015

Hurting Others With Our Words

Today we turn to pastor and author Chip Ingram.  Last week at Thinking Out Loud we looked at relationships in the church which can disintegrate slowly over a period of time, and those which fade quickly due to a variety circumstantial issues. But often a relationship blows up in a split second over something someone says…

Speak No EvilWhy We Hurt Others with Our Words

Has someone ever said something judgmental and negative behind your back that questioned your motive, integrity or character? If so, how did it make you feel when you found out about it? Probably pretty rotten, right? Nothing is more painful than when someone says something about you that is blatantly untrue.

In fact, few things have the power to ruin a relationship like critical, accusing, defaming, hostile and inaccurate or even slanderous words.

All of us can probably think a time when we were hurt by someone’s words. And we probably know of at least one good relationship that was destroyed, a church that was split, or a family that doesn’t talk any more because of hurtful words.

The Bible is clear that we’re to stop “tearing one another down” by our “slanderous” speech: Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.  There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12)

So, what is “slanderous” speech? It’s to say something untrue or negative about another person. More specifically, it’s to say something about someone (that may or may not be true), but when we say it, our motive is to make others think less of that person.

Most of the time, we’re not even aware that we’re using slanderous speech. It happens in our normal conversation and even in our prayer requests. Often, it’s not intentional or even willful. It’s the kind of speech that rolls off our tongue and doesn’t ever come to our minds.

So how can we know if our speech is slanderous? It’s harmful if the one who is listening has a lower or negative view of a person we were talking about as a result of our conversation.

Why do we wound others with our words? Why do even sincere Christians engage in this behavior? There are two reasons:

1. Unconsciously, when it comes to relationships we buy the lie: “If other people would shape up, then my life would work out.” When we have a conflict with our spouse, our boss, kids, or even a conflict in a church situation, it’s much easier to cast blame and assume that the problem is the other person. We do this in order to justify our own behavior. Rather than face our own insecurity and fear of being rejected, we put down the other person first. Sound familiar?

2. We have a perverse appetite for information. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. (Proverbs 26:22)  We love gossip because we love to hear yucky stuff about other people. Go through any grocery store checkout line and you’ll see that almost all of the magazines displayed are geared toward finding out the gossip about celebrities. They tell us who’s broken up with so and so and who is living with someone else.

Many of us have gotten caught in the web of speaking against another person. I believe that this is so common even among Christians that it’s not a question of “if” this is happening, but a matter of “how much” we are doing it. Until now, perhaps many of us haven’t even thought it was a big deal. But it is. There are some sins that we think are small, but God thinks are really big – and slanderous speech is one of them. Our words have the potential to deeply injure others.

This week, we’ll begin the series Five Lies that Ruin Relationships. In it, we will ask and answer the question: “Do wrong beliefs produce wrong behavior?” We’ll also identify five common lies we believe that prevent us from having the kind of relationships God longs for us to have. During our time together, it’s my hope and prayer that we’ll discover the power in knowing and applying God’s truth to our relationships.

[Click the link above to navigate Chip’s blog and read the rest of the series.]

 

December 2, 2013

Ten Occasions When You Should Say Nothing

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:45 pm
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This is a recurring theme here. Maybe God is trying to tell us (me) something! This list was compiled by Lina Abrujama at the blog True Woman under the title, Ten Times It’s Wise to Hold Your Tongue

I talk too much. Way, way too much.

But God is committed to teaching me when to hold my tongue.

With that in mind, let me share ten situations with you where I’m learning it’s better to refrain from talking:

1. When you have no idea what to say

Proverbs 17:28: “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

2. When you’re wrongly accused

1 Peter 2:23: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return.”

Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.”

3. When you’re mad

Proverbs 25:28: “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”

4. When you’re confused about life

Lamentations 3:25–28: “The Lord is good for those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord . . . Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth to the dust—there may yet be hope.”

5. When you wouldn’t want someone else to find out you said it

Luke 12:3: “Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

6. When you don’t really mean it

Proverbs 3:28: “Do not say to your neighbor ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it,’ when you have it with you.”

7. When you can’t stop yearning for the good old days

Ecclesiastes 7:10: “Say not, why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

8. When you have a lot to do and you don’t like it

Philippians 2:14: “Do all things without grumbling or complaining.”

9. When the timing is wrong

Proverbs 25:11: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in setting of silver.”

10. When you don’t have anything to say that gives grace

Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear it.”

October 10, 2013

Stressed People Make Bad Decisions

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:10 pm
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This is a reblog of an article from Created to Give God Glory, the blog of Prentis McGoldrick. You can read the article at its original source at this link.

We live in a moment-by-moment news reporting world. I get updates on my phone for each “Breaking News” story. Many of these stories are upsetting.

A young man begins to shoot people, a young woman is shot while using her car like a weapon, another person sets himself on fire, a group of bikers violently beat a man- each of these stories flash across my phone. The news reports look for a reason why. Often they chalk it up to some sort of mental illness.

Shouldn’t we be concerned why these people became ill rather than looking at the illness as if there is nothing that can be done? Nearly every case reveals that those who commit these acts have been under long term significant stress. They lost their jobs, were bullied, live in depression or somehow believe they have been denied something they deserve. This stress multiplied by time has caused them to become mentally ill if even for a moment. They are stressed and have no outlet for relieving that stress.

Think of Saul in the Old Testament. He didn’t believe he should be chosen as king. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, the humblest of the tribes. He hid among the baggage when called out to be recognized by the people. Later, he would offered a sacrifice that was not his to offer because he was afraid that Samuel the priest wasn’t going to get there before he lost to the Philistines. He kept the best spoil from a group of people whom God told to destroy with everything that belonged to them because he was afraid of the people. He opposed his best general when he wasn’t given as much praise as that general. He lost his kingdom because he made bad decisions. He was a man under stress.

Each day I watch people burst into road rage. I believe that most of these people are normally good neighbors and good citizens. What causes them to explode over the insignificant slights of others? I believe they are under such stress that any added stress sends them over what they are able to take. It is like a balloon that can’t take an ounce more air. It simply explodes.

This is so unnecessary. The Bible tells us to pray and turn it over to God. The Bible tells us that God loves us so much that He wants us to give Him our fears and anxieties. But I have observed that few Christians are having Quiet Times with God. They aren’t turning those things over to Him and, therefore, are carrying their stress on top of everything else that stresses them. Eventually the balloon must pop.

So, I urge you to make a very needed decision today before you make a bad decision. You may not do something violent but the decision may be just as harmful. (You might continue to bite your husband’s head off until you have added so much stress to him that he leaves- another bad decision!) Tell your stress to God. Put all of it in His hands. Trust that He will take care of it and you.

Then, laugh for He has healed you from your bad decision.

Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 5:7 (ESV)
7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

If you enjoyed this, here is another article from the same writer: Carefully Choosing Words to Bless.

If your internet surfing takes you past any articles our readers would be interested in, or you wish to try writing devotional/Bible study content yourself, please see the guidelines at right and then click the “Submissions” page.

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.

February 1, 2013

Knowing When To Shut Up

If this picture looks familiar, it's the fifth time we've used it here. See below for links to other articles.

If this picture looks familiar, it’s the fifth time we’ve used it here. See below for links to other articles.

Many of us our conscious of the Bible’s emphasis on stillness and waiting. What person reading this hasn’t heard, “Be still and know that I am God?”  But silence is a very different discipline. It can be motivated by various factors and offers various kinds of benefit and blessing.  The problem for some of us is that we like to talk, and if you talk and talk all day, you’re almost certain to come out with a sentence or two you wish you could at best modify, at worst retract completely.

James 1:19 says

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  (NIV)

Eugene Peterson really focuses this text:

Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. (MSG)

The book of Proverbs, needless to say, covers the virtue of holding back from speaking with these words:

Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.  (NASB)

Some of the alternative renderings here are interesting:

  • [is esteemed] a man of understanding (KJV)
  • he is considered perceptive (NKJV)
  • seem intelligent (NLT); is deemed intelligent (ESV)
  • thought wise  …  and discerning (NIV)

There is great value in saying things like:

  • I’ll need some time to formulate a response
  • I’ll have to get back to you on that
  • I don’t know
  • That’s something I need to think about
  • I’m not sure how I would answer that

Or just

  • Hmmm

Of course this is a lesson that many statesman, politicians and civic leaders have learned the hard way. The importance of restraining their speech; of keeping their speech tightly under control.

So this is a lesson we can apply in our relationship with family, extended family, neighbors, co-workers, fellow-students; and people we meet in the course of every day life when conducting business, using services, shopping, etc.  But what about in our relationship with God?

Some of you may have already thought of this passage in Job 40:

The Lord said to Job:

“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
    Let him who accuses God answer him!”

Then Job answered the Lord:

“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
    I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
    twice, but I will say no more.”

The NLT translates verse five, “I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.”  Job is at the end of himself in terms of his wrestling with God, and is now repentant and contrite.  Matthew Henry’s Concise commentary says of this passage:

Communion with the Lord effectually convinces and humbles a saint, and makes him glad to part with his most beloved sins. There is need to be thoroughly convinced and humbled, to prepare us for remarkable deliverances.

After God had shown Job, by his manifest ignorance of the works of nature, how unable he was to judge of the methods and designs of Providence, he puts a convincing question to him; Shall he that contends with the Almighty instruct him?

Now Job began to melt into godly sorrow: when his friends reasoned with him, he did not yield; but the voice of the Lord is powerful. When the Spirit of truth comes, he convinces. Job yields himself to the grace of God. He owns his offenses,  and has nothing to say to justify himself. He is now sensible that he has sinned; and therefore he calls himself vile. Repentance changes men’s opinion of themselves. Job is now convinced of his error.

Those who are truly sensible of their own sinfulness and vileness, dare not justify themselves before God. He perceived that he was a poor, mean, foolish, and sinful creature, who ought not to have uttered one word against the Divine conduct. One glimpse of God’s holy nature would appall the stoutest rebel. How, then will the wicked bear the sight of his glory at the day of judgment? But when we see this glory revealed in Jesus Christ, we shall be humbled without being terrified; self-abasement agrees with filial love.

Yes, God searches the hearts and minds of people and knows their thoughts; but even so, we can ‘say’ too much to him.  This is a reminder that being slow to speak applies even with our relationship with our heavenly father.


The picture that accompanies today’s text has appeared four times before here. I wonder if that means something?

March 12, 2011

Knowing When to Say Nothing

Tomorrow at Thinking Out Loud, we’re introducing the ministry of Steve McVey, so I felt it would be helpful to readers here to introduce you to Steve as well, but through his blog.  This post first appeared there in January under the title, The Grace to Shut Up.

“I just say whatever is on my mind,” a person who was expressing an opinion in an animated way recently said to me. I didn’t respond to the comment, but couldn’t help but think about the Bible verse that says, “A fool uttereth his whole mind, but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards” (Proverbs 29:11, KJV).

When I was young man I felt an internal mandate to not only express my opinion, but also to convince others that mine was the right way to see a matter. I’m not sure if it’s simply a matter of maturing with age or maturing in grace, or maybe a combination of the two, but I don’t feel the need to always make others agree with me anymore. To the contrary, I find myself often saying nothing at times when my thoughts may be in direct contradiction to what somebody may be expressing to me.

The Bible makes it clear that there is a virtue in learning when and how to be quiet. James wrote that we should be quick to hear, but slow to speak. (See James 4:19) Paul wrote to “let your speech be always with grace” (Colossians 4:6). Another time he taught that we should study to be quiet and mind our own business. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:11)

Highly opinionated babblers can be trying at times. I know because I used to be one. Maybe I still am at times, I’m not sure. I do know that I’m a verbal processor who tends to sort through things by talking about them. I recognize that I need grace to enable me to shut-up sometimes.

When I see opinionated, non-stop talkers like the one I mentioned in the first paragraph, I occasionally ask myself, “Do I still act like that at times?” That’s certainly not what I want.

Do you say too much, too often? If so, pray for God’s grace to flow through your actions in such a way as to cause you to know when to say nothing and then enable you to do it. Sometimes grace never looks better than when it enable us to simply shut-up.

Steve McVey