I know I’ve written on this before, but this is a consistent theme for me. Evidence for personal pride is rampant, and none more exuberant than my use of my tongue. I’m confronted with this concept everywhere I turn. What St. James wrote those centuries ago still applies: the tongue is a restless evil, who can tame it? The tongue, though small, can corrupt the whole soul while setting the whole course of one’s life down dark, destructive paths. (Jam. 3: 5, 6)
This morning I came across these verses while I’m reading through the Wisdom of Sirach. The writer says, “Speak, young man, only when necessary, when they have asked you more than once. Be brief, say much in few words; be knowledgeable and yet quiet.” (32: 7, 8)
Speak only when necessary. When is it necessary to speak? Whenever you feel like it? Well, our modern culture would say, “Yes.” And, don’t just speak, tweet, snapchat, post to facebook, blog (like I’m doing here), instagram, etc. Communicate vociferously. Don’t let a thought enter your mind that does not also exit your mouth. Well, that’s not quite the biblical standard.
Many words will lead to sin. Period. Proverbs 10:19 (NASB) says, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.” Unavoidable. Sin separates us from God, and I suppose you could say the use of many words separates us from God. How? We’re doing all the talking and none of the listening. This is problematic because we are but a breath, and rather unwise, He is eternal and infinitely wise. Listen to him.
Back to the first question, though. When is it necessary to speak? St. Paul wrote, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph. 4:29) So, what if the answer to the question “when is it necessary to speak” was when it “is helpful for building others up according to their needs”? That might limit a good bit of our talk, right? It would mine.
I love whit and sarcasm. I find the verbal sparring rather engaging. I can only speak for myself here, but I love it because of my own arrogance. When I’m speaking with someone, there are countless subtle comebacks and quips that I’m ready to deliver at any moment. I like the one-up experience, or getting a laugh, or maybe responding with something intellectual thereby creating an image of intelligence and sophistication. The Lord is changing me, however. Recently I have been actively withholding my comments.Even though they are all in jest and with people whom I know very well, they are not good for my own pride.
My comments are for building up others according to their needs. And, if my words are not for that purpose, I’m speaking when it is not necessary. Wanting to speak when not needed is pride. And “Silence is the cross on which we crucify our ego.”
Silence breeds humility. And, I need humility.