There is a song by Simon and Garfunkel entitled "The Sound of Silence". Some say it was written in the void left by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. There are times when even with the best intentions of desiring to reach for the words to say to someone, we would be better served if our mouths stay shut. Then there are other instances where something said is totally appropriate and would drive the sheer awkwardness of silence away.
There is plenty in Scripture to draw from on this topic. However, allow me to lift from three verses. The first is Proverbs 17:28 -
- "Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues."
So here, we have somebody or a group of people that are known in the community as "fools". The thought is one that is not written down but inferred by what is stated - if fools are wise enough to keep silent and discerning enough to hold their tongue, then how much more should the non-foolish already be doing this? Hopefully you are counted among the non-foolish and are exercising restraint of the tongue.
Ecclesiastes 3:7 is the next verse and it states there is - "a time to be silent and a time to speak". This is pretty straight forward logic but we fail miserably with the timing of when to speak at times. I have put my foot in my mouth or wished I had to stop me from talking a few times in my life. This is certainly a prayer bullet to have on your list of things to ask The Lord for help on a daily basis. A little extra Scripture here provides one of my favorite verses that applies to this situation of when to speak - "A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!" (Proverbs 15:23)
Esther 4:14 is the final main verse I had in mind for this subject. This verse reads - "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" Nothing like the extermination of you and your people to stir you to action. Mordecai not only saw the leaders of their land as the threat to their demise, but inaction or worse yet - Silence.
Mordecai's cousin, Esther, is who the above passage is addressing and encouraging to use her opportunity of position, beauty, charm and reason to save the Jews from obliteration. In other words, if ever there was a time to speak-up and not be silent - now was the time. And Esther came through in flying colors.
God's discerning Spirit within the Believer is of utmost importance here. Think before you speak is still a common challenge for us all. Some have this issue more than others and need a heavy dose of the Holy Spirit as their discerning guide.
When I graduated from college many moons ago, I was blessed with a job in radio. I worked as a Producer/Director or Board Operator for a local talk radio station. For each talk show host on my shift my responsibility was essentially a "Screener". I would use a simple computer program to capture name, age, location and subject desired to talk about. This information was displayed on another computer monitor in the host's studio in front of me through a glass window. In addition, if the host selected anybody and the person went off track from the information provided and was nasty, I had a Red Delay Button (of 6 seconds) that would drop any undesirable content and rebuild that delay for a next time.
The Holy Spirit does the same for us mentally, physically and spiritually. God gave David a powerful and anointed prayer in Psalm 141:3 - "Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips." Because once the words are out - they are out. If we allow Him, The Holy Spirit can be our Screener. Jesus told His disciples that He would give them the words to say via The Holy Spirit when they were arrested (Matthew 10:19) How much more do you think He would give us the right words, at the right time to be an encouragement or help to others if we seek His counsel and leading?
If you are a considerate person, one that does not blab or speak every, single thing that is on your mind, then knowing when to speak or not is still a challenge, but at least you give Pause; at least you are sensitive to a given conversation. My encouragement today is to practice conferring with The Holy Spirit before we open our mouths. And even sometimes with His counsel He may want us to exercise - Silence.