Solomon admonished that there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecc. 3:7). While we often accurately discuss the need to speak out and present truth with boldness and courage, it should also be recognized that there are times when the best course of action is silence. It is certain that knowing when to be silent and when to speak is not always the clearest and easiest decision. However, it is also true that there are many occasions where far more can be said through silence than with many volumes of words. Consider for a moment the value of speaking through silence.
Speaking through silence in response to belligerence and rancor. It is unfortunate, but all of us at various times in life will have to deal with people whose attitude is one of belligerence and their level of respect for you is quite low. When presenting statements of truth to individuals with these attributes, oftentimes the response is somewhat less than pleasant. Generally the first impulse of an individual who cannot answer a statement is to commit the logical fallacy of argumentum ad hominem, more commonly known to us as character assassination. If they cannot defeat the statement, they will attack the intentions, character, intelligence, and often parentage/upbringing, of the individual giving the statement. This will often cause individuals to feel the need to “defend them” and to begin speaking about their intentions, defending their honor, and so on. In doing so, the truth becomes lost (as was intended by the attack), and the speaker’s influence dampened.
However, when one answers such attacks with silence it speaks volumes. It states that the individual understands the truth of their statement and that they will allow the truth of that statement to stand on its own merits; because if a statement is true, it does not matter who is stating it. It also says that the individual making the statement is more concerned with right and wrong than they are popularity. The person seeking popularity will always defend themselves; the person seeking truth will always stand for that first and let the rest fall where it may.
The perfect example of this, as with all things, was Jesus. As he stood trial before the Jews he remained silent. As they paraded pseudo-witnesses before the Sanhedrin trying to find two that were close enough they could consider them “agreed,” Jesus never said a word. As they demanded of him a defense for fraudulent charges, his “defense” was one statement, “You said it” (Mat. 26:64). As they beat him, mocked him, and cursed him, he never said a word. Why? Because everyone present knew the truth of Jesus’ innocence: Jesus knew it, the Jews knew it, the high priest knew it, the servants outside knew it. Jesus would not defend himself from belligerence and rancor; he stood with truth and allowed the rest to fall as it must. Even with Paul’s defenses before the courts of men, they were never personal defenses of his own character; instead they were defenses of the cause of Christ and why it must be preached and practiced. Be mindful to speak with silence in such cases.
Speaking with silence when actions are more important. We have all seen the occasions come when there is help needed in a given situation. It may be a financial situation, a situation of physical labor, or any of many other instances. Inevitably, there are two classes of people who respond to “help” in such situations: the ones who talk about helping and the ones who simply help. It has been my experience that the ones who talk the most in such situations are the ones often found doing the least. They want to have their say, get their two cents in, and be sure everyone knows where they stand, but they are not going to be found over-exerting themselves in any actual effort.
On the other hand there are those beloved individuals who never say a word of self-aggrandizement but simply come in, find out what needs to be done, and work to accomplish it. They are not often lauded. Often times people do not even know who they are by name. However, their actions speak volumes about their love, character, and humility. It has been my humble privilege to be on the receiving end of the generosity of a number of people fitting this description over the years, and it has never been overlooked, gone unnoticed, or been received without the greatest thanks.
It is on those occasions of sorrow when a hug and a warm meal mean more than all the words in the world; those occasions of struggle when a few dollars “somehow” wind up in your hand; those times where everything seems to be falling apart and someone drops everything to help put them together again, that speaking with silence can be so important.
Certainly an example of this type of individual is found in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-36). The Priests and Levites often talked about the need of taking care of the poor and needy, but the Samaritan actually did it. It is this same principle that James was emphasizing when he wrote: “Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works” (Jam. 2:18).
The necessity of speaking for truth and the cause of Christ cannot be overstated or ignored. Nevertheless there are also occasions where our speaking can be done though barely saying a word. Sometimes we can speak far louder in silence than with hours of preaching and proclamation. Be ever mindful of the necessity of both; and ever equally watchful for both opportunities.
My apologies for not having posted anything new in the last week. I have been out sick with a severe case of pharyngitis. Thankfully the cough has finally started to wear off and I am able to get back in the office today for the first time in a week. However, the voice is still nothing more than a whisper. I hope you will consider today’s thoughts carefully and may God bless you as you apply them. ~~ Adam