Solomon speaks of the wisdom of silence; not chiming in with an opinion. Community is important but there is a time to speak and a time to zip the lip!
I was surprised to see my bible helps take this section to chapter 18 verse 4. Initially I thought they would stop at the end of verse 2 but looking closer I see why 3 & 4 are included. In this section we move from silence to boldly proclaiming one’s heart. We also see how ‘community’ is shaped by the silence and proclamations.
First of all, God made us to need others in our lives. When He first made Adam and put him in the Garden, He watched him for a while. God waited to see what Adam would do. Would he find on his own companionship with the animals? Would he notice that he was alone? Would he feel incomplete?
Adam never voiced discontentment to God on this issue. He assumed that this was how he was meant to be. But God knew better. He knew that we all need someone to lean on as we went through our days.
“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18-20).
God paraded everything past Adam and waited to see if he would choose anything from what He had made to be his companion. Adam has patiently and thoroughly named everything in the garden. After all that work God still saw that Adam was alone, even if Adam didn’t. It was time to do something about it.
“So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:21-22).
“Here she is!” exclaims God to Adam. Adam takes one look at her and his heart finds something he didn’t even know was missing.
“Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24).
And the firs community came into being. So what does this have to do with being silent? In MOST cases, when someone is speaking they want to know that someone else is there listening. Conversation takes at least two. Which brings us to Proverbs 18:2; “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”
A person who always isolates himself/herself does so to avoid influence by others. They are seeking their own company and opinions and no one else’s. We don’t grow this way. We stagnate. We need others to interact with. If this pandemic taught us nothing else, it taught us the value of actual physical community. Virtual community helped us not spiral into total despair but the thing we ALL craved was to actually be among others outside our four walls.
So we know that we need one another and that by interacting we grow. But even when together, there are times to be silent and times to speak out. When I read the first sentence of our section today a thought popped into my head. “What if he is quiet because he doesn’t have any knowledge or opinion on the topic of conversation?” Two sentences later we come on the answer: “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Proverbs 17:28).
There ARE things we are supposed to speak about. We are to proclaim the gospel, being prepared to defend our reason for our hope to anyone who asks. We are to speak up when we see sin, especially in our brothers. We are also to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. BUT when we do speak we are to do so in love, with a gentle tongue, and to help bring restoration and healing. This correction is to be done privately instead of in a public forum. IF he won’t hear you there are additional steps to take but none of them include blasting him in a public forum.
Man has a different take on this, as evidenced by this quote: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” (The author is in question as to its true source. Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, and Maurice Switzer are the most common associations.) Facebook is FULL of people who are willing to be seen as a fool for they have something to say about EVERYTHING! Some seem born to argue, no matter what the point. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them argue both sides of an argument as in support AND opposition to the same points. I, personally, refrain from posting nearly anything on my personal account. On my account for this blog, daily posts for the blog is the only thing I post, other than responding to comments on those posts.
The key ingredient for all of our speech is wisdom. Not man’s wisdom but God’s. “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; thee fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook” (verse 4). Whether you speak or remain silent, let it be because you are using the wisdom God gives us through His Holy Spirit. Let your speech always be done in love. And let your actions speak equally with love and wisdom.
Father God, help me know when to be silent and when to speak. Give me Your words to speak and let them always be given in love. Let also the actions I do speak of my love for You too. I want to be Your hands and feet. Let wisdom bubble up in me each time I come to You to learn of You. Don’t let me EVER speak words of hate, division, or anger.