"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise."
- Proverbs 10:19 NIV
When I began seriously studying the Bible some years ago, I was amazed at how many verses warned against talking too much. It never occurred to me that being too talkative could lead us into sin. But the above verse makes it clear that it can. Proverbs 10:14 (TLB) says: "A wise man holds his tongue. Only a fool blurts out everything he knows; that only leads to sorrow and trouble." The fact is, the more we talk, the more likely we are to say something that we will be sorry for later. And just like we can't "un-ring a bell," we can't ever take back the words we've spoken. We can apologize for them, or try to correct them, but once they are out of our mouths, we must live with the consequences of them.
Proverbs 17:28 (NLT) says, "Even fools are thought to be wise when they keep silent; when they keep their mouths shut, they seem intelligent." It's tempting sometimes to attempt to display our knowledge about something, especially if we want to impress someone. But the truth is that usually, we'll seem more wise, and make a better impression, if we talk less. We ourselves determine whether our lips will be a blessing to us, or a curse. Proverbs 18:7 (NLT) says, "The mouths of fools are their ruin; their lips get them into trouble." Notice it doesn't say "their ears get them into trouble." We'd get into a lot less trouble if we did more listening and less talking. If we're ever tempted to believe that what comes out of our mouths isn't important, we need only to remember Proverbs 13:3 (NIV), which says, "He who guards his lips guards his life."
God gives us a command in James 1:19 (NIV) that can change our lives for the better, if we choose to live by it: "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." It's important to the Lord that we listen to others. It's one of the best ways to show someone that we love and respect them. We are being selfish and arrogant when we monopolize a conversation and do most of the talking, giving others the impression that what they might have to say is of little importance to us. Besides that, we lose many opportunities for gaining wisdom and getting to know others better when we're talking, instead of listening to what they have to contribute to the conversation. It takes a lot of humility to be a good listener, but it's a goal worth striving for because it pleases God, blesses others, and rewards us in the long run.
Sometimes, when we've dominated the conversation and others present have even encouraged us to do so, we can get the impression that we did the right thing. But chances are that afterwards, our captive audience will criticize us behind our backs, and actually dread a similar experience with us in the future. I have seen the consequences of excessive talking, and they can be devastating. That shouldn't really surprise us, though, because if it's displeasing to God, it cannot bear good fruit, but only bad. Yes, there are times we need to do the speaking. Ecclesiastes 3:7 (NIV) says there is "a time to be silent and a time to speak." We need to offer our lips to the Lord each day, and ask Him to make us sensitive and obedient to the leading of His Spirit in this area. I often like to pray as David did in Psalm 141:3 (NASB), “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Today, may the Lord deeply plant in our hearts the truth that, "A truly wise person uses few words." (Proverbs 17:27 NLT)
Prayer: Lord, teach me to be a good listener. Help me to be more giving and generous when I'm conversing with others. When I'm tempted to talk too much, convict me by Your Spirit--remind me that I'm displeasing You, and no good can come from it. Thank You that as a result, I'll enjoy richer relationships with You and others!
- J. M. Farro