A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
— Proverbs 25:11 (NIV)
Have you ever said, “Silence is golden?” Most of us have. It is true in many ways. For example: When the little ones are finally settled in bed at night, don’t most parents bask in the peaceful golden glow of silence? What if you have said something you should never have said? Then it is abundantly clear that silence would have been golden, right? What if someone says something unkind to you? If you refrain from flying off the handle, such silence is pure gold. What if you are tempted to tell just one person that juicy story you heard about… and you resist? Well, you can be sure that in this case silence is golden!
However, is silence always golden? Perhaps it is not. Think about it. If we have an opportunity to tell others about Jesus, but remain silent, is this a golden moment? Is silence golden, if we refuse to defend the defenseless, choosing to go along in order to get along? What if I know that a sister is discouraged, but I fail to encourage her? Is this silence golden? Maybe a fellow-saint is being wrongfully maligned for deeds we know he did not do. Would our silence be golden if we timidly decline to speak in his defense? Is the silence golden if we know of a brother’s sin, but make no attempt to lovingly admonish him? What if, in spite of my most sincere efforts to do right, I have made a huge mistake? Is the silence golden, if I stubbornly refuse to admit that I was wrong and simply say, “I’m sorry?”
Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all. In this regard, Proverbs 10:19 cautions: “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” Indeed, James teaches us that we sould be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). But, he does not say zip the lip and never speak. The real challenge is in finding a healthy balance, because, as illustrated above, there are times when silence isn’t golden.
Solomon’s counsel in Proverbs 12:18 seems to bring this into perspective. Here he states, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Through the Apostle Paul we are further instructed concerning the need for balance. He writes: “Do not let any unwholesome talk some out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). No wonder Solomon included the following in his collection of proverbs: “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
We must never underestimate the power of the words we speak. They do not simply spill off our lips and slip into oblivion. No! They settle deeply into the hearts of those who receive them and reverberate through the years. Words from a wise and godly person bring health and healing. They build up and benefit those who listen.
In this regard, I will never forget the words of a poem I learned as a young person. I’m not sure who penned this verse, but I have long appreciated his or her sentiments. It is:
“A word is dead, when it is said,” some say;
But I say, “It really begins to live that day.
Close your eyes and think of those with whom you interact each day. Whom do you see? Look closely now. What do you see? Can you see it in their eyes? It’s written all over their faces, isn’t it? There are so many souls longing to be loved—longing for the silence to be broken by a golden word of encouragement. And there are others, aren’t there? Are there those who need to hear a word of caution regarding conduct which is contrary to Christ. Do you see the others—those who yearn for someone to help them come to know God and His will more clearly? And, there are others with that look of desperation on their faces—those who need to hear for the first time about the Savior?
If we fail to speak a word for Christ to these, this is when silence isn’t golden.
© Bill Williams
April 10, 2007
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