When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
The more we talk, the more we sin. That ought to sober us and cause us to slow down our talking, but many of us talk on!
There was a tombstone in an English churchyard. The faint etching read:
Beneath this stone, a lump of clay,
Lies Arabella Young,
Who, on the twenty-fourth of May,
Began to hold her tongue.
Far better if we heed Proverbs 10:19 and begin to hold our tongue while we live! The Bible says: That’s what wise people do. They are not incessant talkers. They talk, of course. But they are quick to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19).
Why do we talk too much? Maybe it’s nervousness. Maybe insecurity. A big reason for excessive talking is pride. We are self-preoccupied, self-centered, self-enamored. Proverbs 18:2 says: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
One of my heroes is Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a courageous, fearless President with many incredible traits. But like the rest of us, he was one flawed individual. Talking too much was one of those flaws. One biographer, Edmund Morris, comments:
He delights like a schoolboy in parading his knowledge, and does so loudly, and at such length, that less vigorous talkers lapse into weary silence. John Hay once calculated that in a two-hour dinner at the White House, Roosevelt’s guests were responsible for only four and a half minutes of conversation; the rest was supplied by the President himself.
OK, maybe you’re not that bad! I hope not! But Theodore Roosevelt is not the standard! God calls us to be careful, to hold back, to go slow when it comes to talking. Be slow to speak, quick to listen. Most of us get that backwards: We are quick to speak, slow to listen.
Words are a great resource. We can do so much good with life-giving words. But words can be abused. One way we abuse words is to talk too much and listen too little. In a day of cell phones, email and Facebook, perhaps the problem of excessive words is worse than ever.
Wise people hold their tongues. How are you doing at this rare discipline?