Let Thy Words Be Few

Ecclesiastes 5:2

Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.


Certain verses in the Bible seem to encourage self-mutilation:

Matthew 5:29,30: And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Should we really consider chopping off parts of our body if they lead us into sin? Of course not. And we know that, because not only do our eyes and hands lead us into sin, but every other part of our body does too:

Psalm 51:5: Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Not least our minds:

Romans 8:7: Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

We can’t possibly be called to physically maim ourselves every time we sin, because we’d have nothing left. We’d have to kill ourselves to completely stop sinning against God. Rather, the calling is to keep all our body parts in check. To be finished with living for self. To put to death the deeds of the body - the way our natural bodies want to go - and to walk worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus:

Romans 8:13: For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

Colossians 1:10: That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God….

By nature, we continually sin. We can’t do anything else:

Romans 8:8: So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

But, praise God, He has sent a Saviour into the world, who not only saves all those who come to Him from the consequences of their sin, but sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within them, so that they are now given that ability to please God. But that doesn’t mean they become perfect, far from it. They now have a battle going on within themselves:

Galatians 5:16-18: This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

We still have to be very careful. We still need to control these sinful bodies. But the difference is that we now have the Holy Spirit within us to help us to do just that.

But there is one member of our body that is far more unruly that any of the others. And James warns us about it:

James 3:1-10: My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

James starts by telling us that not many should seek to become masters, or leaders in the church. They, by definition, need to use their tongues more than others. They need to explain truth, to comfort the downcast, to exhort the brethren, to rebuke the wayward, to help all within the church, and to be able to bring the gospel of everlasting grace to those outside the church. The tongue is particularly necessary for all these activities. 

Too many people fancy themselves as some great church leader. And, in itself, being a leader is not a bad thing to desire in our hearts:

1 Timothy 3:1: This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

But James warns us that not many of us should really want to do that, because those who become leaders in the church will be judged far more strictly:

Luke 12:48: For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

And that’s because of the use of the tongue. It can be very influential. Those who crave leadership know that with their tongues they can influence others, so they go out seeking - mainly weaker people - to gather followers for themselves.

Matthew 23:15: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

James then goes on to tell us why our tongues are so dangerous. If we want to be able to control our whole body, we must control our tongue. Just as a bit in a horse’s mouth can control the whole horse, or a rudder can control a whole ship, so important is our need to tame the tongue. But we can’t tame it, nobody can. It is impossible. And that’s because “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity,” “set on fire of hell.”

With our tongue, we think we can get anything we want. From that pushy salesman who persuades us to buy something we don’t really need or want, to Jimmy Savile, who made us believe he was such a nice man, to Adolf Hitler, who persuaded millions to vote for him. The tongue is the greatest weapon we have, because with it, we can get others to bow to our every whim. It’s all about control. And the wicked know this, and use it to their own advantage:

Psalm 5:9: For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.

Psalm 55:21: The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.

Psalm 62:4: They only consult to cast him down from his excellency: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly. Selah.

Psalm 73:9: They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.

Psalm 144:8: Whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

It is such a comfort to the downtrodden Christian that such persuasive, arrogant, pushy, controlling individuals will not be able to avoid judgment in the end:

Psalm 37:35,36: I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.

Psalm 59:12: For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips let them even be taken in their pride: and for cursing and lying which they speak.

When finally appearing before the Judge of the whole earth, they will all become speechless:

Matthew 22:12: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.

It is exactly because of the unruly nature of the tongue, that the Christian is therefore called especially to keep watch:

Psalm 141:3: Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

We are called to speak as little as possible:

Matthew 5:33-37: Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Proverbs 13:3: He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.

Proverbs 17:1: Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife.

Proverbs 17:27: He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.

Proverbs 17:28: Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-2: Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.

Isaiah 41:1: Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.

Amos 5:13: Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.

Habakkuk 2:20: But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.

Zechariah 2:13: Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.

Matthew 6:7-8: But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

1 Corinthians 14:28: But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

But there is a time for the Christian to speak:

Ecclesiastes 3:1,7: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.... a time to keep silence, and a time to speak....

On these occasions when the Christian does open his mouth, it is only for one of two things. Either to acknowledge our sin and frailty:

Psalm 32:3-5: When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

Psalm 39:2-4: I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.

2 Corinthians 12:5: ….of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.

1 Peter 5:6: Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time….

Or to praise God:

Psalm 22:26: The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.

Psalm 51:15: O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

Isaiah 62:6-7: I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.

When we get to heaven, we won’t be able to sin any more, so the self will no longer be a burden to us, and we’ll be totally free to praise God continually. The book of Revelation contains the sort of prayers we’ll be praying in heaven:

Revelation 4:8: ….Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

Revelation 4:10-11: ….Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Revelation 5:8-10: ….Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

Revelation 5:11-12: ….Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.

Revelation 5:13: ….Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

Revelation 7:9-10: ….Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

Revelation 7:11-12: ….Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 11:16-18: ….We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.

Revelation 15:3: ….Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.

Revelation 16:7: ….Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.

Revelation 19:1-3: ….Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. 

Revelation 19:6-7: ….Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.

But we’re not in heaven yet. While we are still down here on this earth, Christ gives us this solemn warning:

Matthew 12:36-37: But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Notice, it’s not every wicked word, or every boastful word, or every arrogant word or every cruel word we speak that Christ refers to here. We’ll be judged for those right enough. But He refers to every idle word. 

So often, if we don’t know what to say, we say the first thing that comes into our heads. Peter had this problem. He was very impulsive and always felt he had to say something: 

Mark 9:5,6: And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.

If we don’t know what to say, it’s foolish to say anything. It’s far better to say nothing than to say something wrong or inappropriate. Let’s make sure that no idle, useless words ever come of our mouths.

When we become a Christian, the Holy Spirit fills us with such joy in our hearts:

1 Peter 1:8: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory....

Nehemiah 8:10: .... the joy of the LORD is your strength.

That joy often overflows, and we want to express it. However, in some, it looses their tongue rather too much, and spills over into incessant chattering about anything and everything. Now, I’m not judging anyone for this, in one sense, it’s a natural reaction. But coming to Christ should also give us a tremendous sense of our remaining sinful nature, and a recognition of the ease by which our tongues can still say stupid things. A quiet and gentle spirit is by far a greater witness than a chatty tongue:

1 Peter 3:4: ….even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.