Once again, let’s look at James 1:19, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” As you read here, listening is our “go to” position, our default behavior. However, we are still called to speak, yet it is not something we rush to do. We speak after thought and biblical contemplation.
I want you to take notice of those around you the next time you go to church. Observe their behavior, how they speak and what they have to say. My guess is you will find many of the wisest believers say very little. Why is this? They have gained wisdom from long and careful study of God’s word. This causes them to live out verses like James 1:19. When these people speak, you find yourself listening to what they have to say. They have weighed their words and found them worthy to be spoken. I’m sure you can think of a few of these people right now.
This is not a hard and fast rule for quiet people, however those with deep wisdom are often not the loudest in the group. Solomon recognized this trait, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Proverbs 17:28 (see also Proverbs 10:19, 18:2, and 29:20)
So how do we know when to speak? I’ll give you three helpful guidelines to follow today. Understand, I am not saying I have this all figured out. God is working on me as he is you.
One: Is what you are going to say biblical? You may think this only applies to speaking at church or in bible studies, but you would be wrong. God’s Word is the standard for everything - for life, for behavior and for the words we say. Is what you are going to say in line with the teachings of scripture? If so, good. If not, don’t say it. Think of it this way, if Jesus was in the room, would you still say these words?
Two: What is the purpose of your words (the heart motive)? Is your goal in speaking unselfish or is pride at the root? For example, you are about to tell your husband something - will the words build him up or build you up? Your goal must always be to honor the gospel. Does this seem too lofty when all you want to say is, “Please take out the trash.”? If the gospel is to be the center of our lives and homes we have to keep it utmost, even (or especially) in our words. And yes, tone matters.
Three: Even if the words are biblical and encouraging, should you speak them? This is a tough one. We Christians have a lot of good stuff to say…but it doesn’t all need to be said. Especially not all at once. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit for many reasons and this is one of them. Discernment matters. There are times I don’t want to speak up but the Spirit tells me I have to, there are other times I have something great to say and the Spirit tells me to keep quiet. Learn to heed and trust the Holy Spirit given to you as a gift to sanctify you. This comes through time and maturity in Christ and his Word. “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,” Proverbs 12:27a.
Ladies, I know this sounds hard. Do I really expect you to think about these three points every time you speak? Yes, actually I do. God’s standards are perfection, how can I point you (or myself) toward anything less? I want speaking biblically to become your natural habit. Another great reason to praise God for what Jesus has done and the gift of the Holy Spirit to make growth toward this goal possible!
Finally, we are always called to speak the gospel. This is an area where we certainly need to speak up! Share Jesus with others. If we believe it in our hearts it will come out of our mouths. “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak,” 2 Corinthians 4:13. Let Christ be on your lips and allow him to command your tongues. Trust him to do this and practice discernment in speaking today.