One thing the Lord has really been working on in my own heart is the issue of careful speech. American Christians in particular face extra challenges due to living in a culture that encourages self-expression and individuality. One of the products of this culture I believe is the explosion of blogging, Facebook, and other forms of social media, which are intentionally designed as tools for sharing anything and potentially everything about our lives. As a result, the Christian Church faces some new challenges with helping local church bodies to remain pure and blameless as ambassadors of Christ. Since Christians are imperfect and prone to make mistakes too, the ability to instantly communicate our thoughts to the entire world may require extra caution and self-control, especially if we become frustrated or angry at times with the communication of others.
Fortunately God has already spoken to this issue of speech control in many places throughout Scripture. I’ve been particularly convicted by several relevant verses in Proverbs, which I quote and review below,
“The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.” (Proverbs 15:2 ESV)
“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:13 ESV)
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (Proverbs 18:2 ESV)
Speak as one who finds knowledge beautiful
If we look a little deeper into the words of Proverbs 15:2, the author explains that evidence of wisdom is marked by a nature inclined to gain knowledge but disinclined to speak one’s opinion. “Commend knowledge” could also be interpreted from the Hebrew as “a love of knowledge” or “to find knowledge beautiful.” It is the sense in which a person searches out a matter deeply before he feels confident to express his opinion. In contrast, the fool is prone to “pour out folly.” The Hebrew word literally means “to pour out” or “to gush.” In fact the word is translated as a “flowing brook” in Proverbs 18:4. So it’s the idea that fools are quick to freely gush or spout their opinion while lacking the substance to really support their statements.
Wait to give an answer
This same theme is further supported in Proverbs 18:13, where the author focuses specifically on the moment at which it is proper to answer. The fool answers confidently before he has searched out the matter on all sides. The wise man, however, hears out the matter fully before giving a confident answer. “Hearing” in this sense means the “listening to and applying of knowledge.” It’s used often throughout the Old Testament in the hearing and obeying of the law. So it’s more than merely receiving information, but rather a thoughtful consideration based on being well informed. We see this same theme in Proverbs 18:17 which says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” It’s the idea that the wise consider all sides of an issue and are reluctant to speak confidently at length about a matter, if at all, until they have studied all sides of the issue at hand.
Don’t babble like a fool
To help us further understand, the author states in Proverbs 18:2 that a fool in fact “takes no pleasure” in knowledge. He does not delight in it or care for it as the Hebrew connotes, and despite his lack thereof, he would rather continue “expressing his opinion,” in which he delights greatly. The wise man however greatly values knowledge and takes no delight in babbling on and on about his opinions.
These Proverbs have definitely caused me to pause and reflect on past mistakes made using social media, and by the grace of God I hope to continue improving the speech of my lips so that my words are winsome and seasoned with grace. Facebook and other social media give us the opportunity to share the abundance of our hearts instantly, whether we are currently controlled by the Spirit or by our flesh. I personally find that when I am led by an impulsive, defensive, or retaliatory spirit, my heart is almost always not being led by the Spirit of God. In seeking to prevent these pitfalls, I hope to use these Proverbs and other similar Scriptures to search my heart carefully and think about what I write, dying to the sinful desire to speak carelessly and submit to Christ, asking myself if I am honoring God, if I am acting wisely, if I am communicating thoughtfully, if my words are seasoned with grace, and if I have searched out all sides of the matter, or if I am babbling on about my own opinion. May God give us grace in these things.