The Bible says, “If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth” (Proverbs 30:32).
Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:7, that there is a time to speak and a time to keep silent. We can be silent when we should speak, and we can speak when we should be silent. It takes wisdom to learn when the time is right to speak and those times when it is best and right to remain silent. A wise man would not talk and waste his breath on Israel in Amos’ day, because they had refused to hear the Word for so long and now judgment had come. “Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time: for it is an evil time” (Amos 5:13 KJV).
There are many other occasions when we should guard our lips and hold our silence even though we would want to speak. Wanting to say something and actually having something to say but not saying it shows we have control over our tongue and can bridle the whole body (James 3:2). A wise man once said, “Wise men speak because they have something to say, but fools speak because they have to say something.”
Solomon tells us that if we have done foolishly by exalting ourselves, then we should keep silent.
It’s always a foolish thing to exalt ourselves, to scratch and claw our way to the top, to buy a promotion, to pull strings to get a higher position, to lift ourselves up by our bootstraps.
To get a higher position dishonestly means we are not really ready for it or we would have been given it. So when we get put into a position we do not merit or deserve we should keep our mouth closed lest everyone realize we are not suited for nor qualified for that position and we are then demoted. When a person fights for or works underhandedly to get a higher position, when they get that position they tend to become proud, arrogant and boastful and begin to spew off at the mouth and end up losing their position.
Solomon tells us when we have an evil thought, then we should keep silent. When an evil thought is at the threshold of our mind we should keep the door of our mouth shut.
An evil thought is a private thing that no one sees it but us and God. To speak and express with words our evil thoughts is to give consent to our thoughts and make them public and possibly to cause others to think evil thoughts as well.
Jesus said, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, . . .” (Matthew 15:18-19).
Evil thoughts proceed out of our private heart into the public domain when we give our consent to them and speak them into existence with our mouth. And giving our consent to evil thoughts and spreading them by speaking them into existence says a lot about what kind of person we are.
We all have evil thoughts that we do not give our consent to and by God’s grace strive to get the victory over. Learning that the time to keep silent is when we have an evil thought on our mind is a sure sign of maturity.
And we should all pray the prayer of Psalm 141:3, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.”
James H. Cagle lives in Ray City, Ga., and is a former Hamilton County resident.