Solomon said there is a time to be silent (Ecclesiastes 3:7). His call for a time of silence immediately preceded his advice that there is also a “time to speak.” This wise king may have been telling us it is best to be quiet long enough to think before speaking so we won’t say things we’ll later regret.
Abraham Lincoln observed that is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt, agreeing with the writer of Proverbs:17:28: “Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.” But it is not always wise to be silent; there is “a time to speak.”
John Bunyan, who wrote the enduring classic, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” said a turning time in his life came when he heard a few women sitting outside one of their homes talking about the Lord. He said if they had been gossiping about their neighbors or enjoying some choice morsel of scandal the effect on him would have been entirely different, but they were talking about their faith and the change God had made in their lives.
Bunyan was a tinker, mending pots and pans in the neighborhood, and he later wrote that as he went about his work the words of these good women went with him, ultimately playing an important part in making him a man of faith and a writer whose words still change lives.
When then is silence golden?
Silence is best when speaking will injure others, especially those closest to them.
Silence is always better than deadly digs disguised as humor. We have no right to speak degradingly of those we love, even in veiled jest. Instead, let’s build up others with positive words of praise.
Silence is priceless when speaking will cause divisions among the members of your church. According to the Bible, words that produce bitterness and strife come from an unholy source.
On the other hand, words that bring peace in your church are said to be from the Lord: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
Silence is vital when your minister is being criticized.
Too many come to church services to evaluate sermons rather than looking for ways to apply them. Little groups of critical members may gather to complain about their pastor instead of looking for ways to share their faith in the community.
Refuse to be part of the critical crowd. Let your silence speak of your loyalty to the Lord and His servants.
The still highly respected minister, C.H. Spurgeon, of London said, “The anvil breaks a host of hammers by quietly bearing their blows.”
It’s never easy to be calm and quiet under fire, but the silent Savior, not answering those who falsely accused Him, is the perfect example for us all.
Roger Campbell is an author, a columnist, and broadcaster who was a pastor for 22 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org