“Then the LORD said to Job, “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”
Then Job replied to the LORD, “I am nothing – how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.” (Job 40:3-5 NLT)
“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” (Prov 21:23 ESV)
Oh, Job! How often are we like you?
How often do I have my foot in my mouth rather than my hand over it?
Job had been through crushing circumstances. He lost so very much… (See Job, chapters 1 and 2.)
But lest He question God and be a critic of what God allows, God himself intervenes in Chapters 38 and 39, then later in 40 and 41 to remind Job that He is GOD and Job is… well, just Job.
And I am… just me.
And like Job, I need to remember to have my hand over my mouth more often. I need to not only answer God with reverential silence, but I also need to remember to implement wise silence in earthly relationships.
“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” (Prov 18:21 NLT)
Words can bring life or death! They can build others up, or destroy them. And the same mouth often does both. This proverb brings to mind a saying that my father shared with me that he learned from his grandfather, a preacher. The saying goes something like this… “People who talk a lot spin a lot of gravel. And gravel hurts when it gets thrown.” Mmmm… a sage warning.
“So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:5-10 ESV)
These words are almost disheartening, aren’t they? With our words we bless our Lord, but curse our fellow man… even our most cherished loved ones? The tongue can’t be tamed? Then why should I try in vain?
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2 ESV)
So, although I can never truly tame it, I can always live in light of a few things. One is that I shouldn’t stop trying… I should live as one who is dead to sin.
Another thing I should live in light of is Phil 4:13. I can do all things through Christ. Even put my hand over my mouth in wise silence. Figuratively… or literally.
Yet another thing to keep in mind is the simple fact that I need a Savior. I need Him who knew no sin to take mine away! (See 2 Cor 5:21) If I could cleanse myself of all unrighteousness, including hasty and hurtful words, I wouldn’t need Christ to do it for me. As we all do, I need Jesus to enter into my heart with his big bar of lye soap and a rough wash cloth and give my inside a thorough scrubbing. (Sometimes that’s a painful scrub-down that reveals lots of dirt. And yet, it is so well worth it in the end!) I would never want to be like the Pharisees who looked like beautiful whitewashed tombs on the outside, but inside were full of decaying dead men’s bones. (See Matt 23:27)
How different are my words from the words of God.
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts…” (Prov 12:18a ESV)
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psa 119:105 KJV)
“Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.” (Eph 6:17 HCSB)
God’s word fights His enemy ONLY! My words? They fight the enemy at some times, and at other times might fight others or even myself. God’s word is powerful, enlightening, revealing, and uplifts and saves us (through the knowledge and confession of Jesus as our Lord). What would a day look like if I could spend 24 hours speaking only His words? (My children might find that hypothetical experiment funny. I can see it now… “Mom, what’s for breakfast?”. “Man shall not eat by bread alone…”) Ok, so that might not be a very practical experiment in some ways, but I really do have to wonder what power and what humility I would learn of by doing it.
Of course, there are still the unspoken words… also known as thoughts. Again, this is why mankind needs Jesus.
Just as Job learned a wise silence from being humbled when God put him in his place, I need to learn this same lesson.
What lessons has God been showing you, lately? Do you need to work on your words?
Prayer: Today and always, Lord, please lead me. Show me where and when to exercise wise silence. Show me also how to take every thought captive. Thank you for sending Jesus to clean my heart because I know I’m not able to be my own righteousness. Thank you for forgiving me when I heap imperfection upon imperfection. Help me to remove my foot from my mouth and, instead, humbly lay my hand across my lips. And, when I speak, help my words be like yours!