Timely Words: Is it Better to Remain Silent?

The book of Proverbs has a strong bias in favor of silence, or at least the very spare use of words by the wise. Consider, for example, Proverbs 17:27–28, “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” The second part of this proverb uses humor to reinforce the first part: fools who imitate the wise in their silence can often appear wise…at least for a while!

Proverbs 10:19 emphasizes the linkages between silence, holiness, and wisdom. “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). Clearly, the default position for the wise person is to say no more than necessary. As we have seen from the book of James, this is because the tongue is so prone to evil and difficult to restrain.

Perhaps you actually do have a helpful word of reproof or correction for someone. If so, that is not a matter to be taken lightly. But such words usually involve an area of sin or foolishness that the person you wish to speak to has been involved with for some time, perhaps many years. Is it necessary that you bring the word right now? Is this really a good time to speak it? God’s wisdom regarding our speech is clear and simple. If we desire to speak with wisdom, then if we speak at all, we must speak with restraint.

Excerpted from A Proverbs Driven Life by Anthony Selvaggio

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