Bible Society of South Africa
Hennie Symington

A journey of the soul – Day 5

When silence is godly

Bible text(s)

Judging Others

37“Do not judge others, and God will not judge you; do not condemn others, and God will not condemn you; forgive others, and God will forgive you.

34You snakes — how can you say good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35A good person brings good things out of a treasure of good things; a bad person brings bad things out of a treasure of bad things.

36“You can be sure that on Judgement Day everyone will have to give account of every useless word he has ever spoken.

Matthew 12:34-36GNBOpen in Bible reader

5Again Jesus refused to say a word, and Pilate was amazed.

“It is better for a man to be silent and be a Christian, than to talk and not be one.” Bishop Ignatius of Antioch (107 AD).

Recklessness with words has become commonplace. The feeling seems to be: free speech is our right and we will say what we want, when we want and how we want to say it. Expletives explode from our lips at the slightest provocation. We pride ourselves on our outspokenness and see it as our right to express our feelings in the most vehement ways possible.

“But,” you say, “I don’t swear! I use harmless, innocent words such as ‘o shucks’ or ‘flip it’ or ‘freakin’ so and so’ or ‘bull-dust’, ‘you idiot!’ or ‘stupid fool!’”. It doesn’t really matter what you say, it’s the intention behind the words that should be looked at. Mostly, the intention behind the words is to express our utmost disgust, disdain, displeasure or just plain dislike of a person or a situation. We think it’s just words, but let me remind you of the old saying, “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me”. It’s just the other way round. Words hurt; words kill people’s pride and destroy their self-esteem. Moreover, the way you talk says something about you, whether you like it or not.

In the early Christian church, silence was decreed in certain circumstances. Pope Sixtus recommended silence in preference to reckless words about God. One early Christian even recommended holding one’s hand over one’s mouth, to avoid talking nonsense about something you know nothing about. Another ancient Christian teacher advised: “Be thoughtful in all your talk … and take care never to speak what you have not weighed and pondered beforehand.”

When must you speak freely? When it would be wrong to remain silent.

What does Jesus say about what to say? “Bless them that curse you”, “turn the other cheek” when you are verbally attacked.

But he also says, “You snakes — how can you say good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good person brings good things out of a treasure of good things; a bad person brings bad things out of a treasure of bad things. “You can be sure that on Judgement Day everyone will have to give account of every useless word he has ever spoken. Your words will be used to judge you — to declare you either innocent or guilty.” Matthew 12:34-36

What did Jesus say under severe provocation? He … refused to say a word. Mark 15:5

Bible Society of South Africav.4.18.7
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