1776) Know When to Be Quiet

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By Jon Bloom, February 16, 2018, at:  http://www.desiringgod.org


     Christians should be the most careful speakers in the world.  We ought to be characterized by two kinds of trembling when it comes to words: we should tremble at the words God speaks and we should tremble at the words we speak.

     We know we should tremble at God’s word, for he tells us,  “This is the one I will look on with favor: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2)

     But why should we tremble at the words we speak?  Because Jesus said, “I tell you, on the Day of Judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  (Matthew 12:36-37)

     “Every careless word.”  That should stop us in our tracks.  It should set us trembling, considering how many words we speak.  And by “speak” I mean every word that comes out of our mouths, our pens, and our keyboards.  We speak thousands of words every day, sometimes tens of thousands.

     When we experience these two kinds of trembling, they occur for the same reason: we love and fear God and don’t want to profane his holy word or to profane his holiness with our unholy words.  Such trembling makes us want to speak carefully and sometimes not speak at all.  Because we believe, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: . . . a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:1…7)

     There really is a time to keep silent.  And that time comes more often than most of us are conditioned to think.

     With the advent of social media, nearly everyone now has a broadcast platform from which they can publicly hold forth on any social, cultural, political, economic, or theological issue, any controversy, any scandal, any whatever anytime they wish, regardless of what they know.  And while the democratization of public communication is a remarkable historic phenomenon and certainly has some wonderful benefits, it is a dangerous thing, spiritually speaking.  It’s an immense, cacophonous forum of multiplied, foolish, careless words, for which every participant, whether they know it or not, will give an account to God.

     Christians know that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and “the beginning of knowledge” (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7).   We are taught that it is profoundly wise for us to cultivate the discipline of being slow to speak (James 1:19).  Slow to speak implies that there is a time for silence.  Sometimes it means we are silent for some appropriate brief or extended period of time while being quick to hear (listening carefully), so we gain an accurate understanding of an issue before we speak carefully. 

     And sometimes it means we don’t speak at all.


Proverbs 4:24  —  Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

Proverbs 10:14  —  The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

James 3:3-10  —  When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.  Or take ships as an example.  Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.  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 body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being 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 human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

James 1:19  —  My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.


May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.  Amen.

Psalm 19:14