What can I answer to thee, I who have spoken so freely, that is, so indiscreetly, and so foolishly? I shall put mine hand upon my mouth.
(Job 40:4 WYC)
Think of times when you have ‘sounded off’ and been too insistent about something – only to regret later what you have said. It’s not so easy to withdraw words once we have spoken them – in fact it can be altogether too much like trying to gather up confetti that has scattered to the wind. There are definitely times when it is best to say less – or even nothing at all.
The image the Lord has placed on me now is that of Jesus being brought, bound, before Pilate, refusing to say a word in order to vindicate Himself against wild accusations and false charges. (Mark 15:2-5)
This cannot be a blanket model for every situation; there are many times when it is extremely important that we do speak up to share the truths and wisdom that the Lord has invested in us. We have all benefited times without number from helpful words in due season: whether to encourage, solve, resolve or to challenge. Even a simple word of explanation can point people in the right direction or resolve some point of tension.
in terms of prayer, once we have been proactive in ascertaining His will, we need to pray into those situations with the incredible authority that He gives us. On other occasions it can be more powerful to say nothing – in which case we will need to resist the temptation to say too much, whether to put others right, to attempt to vindicate ourselves . . . may the Lord get this balance right for us, and remind us of Jesus saying nothing – especially when we are tempted to sound off in all directions!
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in Heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. [and kind, and well chosen . . .] (Ecc. 5:2)
And then, of course, there is so much we can do with the time we have ‘bought back’ by not speaking out too long . . . it’s so good to press on and call on the Lord in the quiet of our hearts using inner rather than outer words! Cf this link.
“Matthew 27” by Richard Crashaw (1646)
And he answered them nothing. . .
O Mighty Nothing! unto thee,
Nothing, we owe all things that be.
God spake once when he all things made,
He sav’d all when he Nothing said.
The world was made of Nothing then;
’Tis made by Nothing now again.
Before we finish reflecting on the theme of saying nothing, here’s another really interesting take on why this can sometimes be the best course of action.