Selective Silence (Proverbs 10:19)
Proverbs 10:19, In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.
During World War II, the United States government became concerned that a number of German spies were operating in America, sending information back to Germany regarding Allied war planes and specific troop and ship movements. To keep them from impacting the war effort, the Office of War Information launched a national campaign around the slogan “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” It was a solemn warning to people not to repeat information that might be damaging, or even deadly, if it fell into the wrong hands.
In the same way, the Word of God warns us of the dangers of gossip. Repeating stories has a way of dividing the body of Christ. Gossip is even able to separate the closest of friends.
Have you ever let your constant stream of words get you in trouble? I sure have—more than once. When we constantly run our mouths, we create a situation with a greater chance of saying something that offends, or that we’ll later regret. It is nearly unavoidable, as Proverbs 10:19 clearly states the solution. It’s found in the latter half of the verse—we must seek to control our tongues and instead exercise, or utilize, the tool of selective silence. Selective silence doesn’t mean we never speak; it means we need to weigh our words in hopes to avoid uttering something we will later wish we could take back. It means we must give careful and prayerful thought to the words we might speak, using discernment to decide if we should speak at all.
With advice that is eternal, there is great wisdom in keeping our mouths shut. The more said, the more likely it is that sin will follow. In contrast, there is great wisdom in saying little. How often idle conversation turns to gossip about others and sinks into slander of character.
It is a rarity for one to talk constantly without sinning and defaming someone's character. The taming of the tongue is a show of wisdom. Wise people learn the importance of holding their tongue. The more one talks, the greater the risk of saying something inappropriate (Matthew 12:36; James 1:26). When people talk too much about others, it usually leads to sin. Speech not only has the potential of being too mean, but also too much. Solomon warns against having too much to say. Often times when one talks too much there is the danger of exaggeration. As the time is stretched out there is the possibility of stretching the truth. There is also the danger of stealing time from others which they could put to more profitable use. The more one talks the more opportunity there is to say something wrong and cause regret. In many words there are idle words for which we must give an account (Matthew 12:36; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Romans 2:16). Continual chatter often leads to exaggeration, untruthfulness and slander. On the other hand, "he that refraineth his lips is wise." The right words of the righteous have the highest value.
Today, let’s not just watch what kind of words roll off our lips; let’s also carefully observe how many. A mouth that is constantly streaming words is susceptible to malfunction, in so doing causing a mighty mess.
Reflection: When have you regretted words that you’ve spoken? How could selective silence have changed the course of that conversation? Selective silence is not an easy habit to cultivate; pray, asking the Holy Spirit to strengthen your self-control and discernment. Our words may never cost us our lives, but if we don't realize their impact on others, they can hurt many people. A word can praise or put down. It can encourage or cause discouragement. It can bring healing or pain. It can unite or divide. Relationships live and die by the spoken word. This is why the Bible puts so much emphasis on the power of the tongue. Love, not anger, should be the first emotion by which we speak. Grace and truth should follow.
Prayer: Father, I need to grow in this area. Help me and give me wisdom to carefully consider in choosing my words before they roll off my tongue. Only You can give me the power to do this. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Dr. Blackman is passionate about helping others grow in the grace of the Lord. His devotions are centered on how to grow closer to the Lord through a personal relationship.