Golden Silence

Some things have been clearly seen as true for a very long time. You may have heard the old quote, “Silence is golden.” Or, perhaps you have heard the more clever, “It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” These thoughts actually have a biblical backing from the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 17:28

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

While this verse will make us grin, it also should bring us some wise conviction. It is foolish to open your mouth and weigh in on topics you know nothing about. That should be obvious. Yet, it is a strong temptation for some of us to do just that.

A dear friend of mine often used to label himself as “often wrong, but never in doubt.” He was recognizing his own weakness in a propensity to have a strong opinion on everything, even things about which he was not really informed. And my friend was not alone there. I think that it is common for people to be tempted to feel we should weigh in and have something to say about everything.

The key here is to recognize what is our motivation for speaking. In many cases, I believe that my own failure here is to want to speak so that people will see me speaking on a topic. I want people to think I’m as smart as everybody else. If I keep my mouth shut, what if they think I don’t know as much as them? Thus, speaking into a situation where I have no knowledge is often an evidence of ungodly pride. I want the approval of men, and I’m willing to pretend to know what I do not know in order to be seen as having something to say.

Friends, let’s guard against the temptation of this pride. Let’s be honest enough to ask questions about things we do not understand rather than weighing in with opinions we cannot support. Let’s be willing to be silent and learn when there is something to learn. No, we need not be afraid to have strong opinions, even unpopular opinions in society. Nor should we fear asking hard questions. Nor do we want to allow someone to silence us just because they consider themselves an expert and they think we lack credentials—that is not at all my point. But let’s not allow ourselves to fall prey to the temptation to talk just so others will think we know something. In truth, if we speak without knowledge, we will often prove ourselves foolish.

Where Wisdom Begins

I want you to imagine that you have a job to do. Perhaps it is Christmas time, and you must work your way through the assembly of some sort of child’s toy. This work is tedious, painful, and often the cause of a need for marital counseling.

Imagine that you have the supplies. Imagine that you have the tools. And imagine that you have the instructions. But, then, imagine that the one thing that you determine you will not do is to allow the instructions to influence you regarding the steps that you should take to assemble the toy. How well do you think you would really do?

Psalm 111:10

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!

The flaw in my above illustration is that, if you are mechanically inclined, you might actually succeed at assembling the toy. But give me a moment of thought. In general, you know it would be crazy talk to eliminate from your mind the actual instructions that tell you how to properly get the job done.

Consider with me how sad it is, then, when people think they can accomplish something of much greater difficulty, living the human life, without consulting genuine wisdom? How crazy is it for us to think that we have, in ourselves, what we need to make it through this world.

The word of God tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. If this is the beginning of wisdom, we must also see that the word of God is telling us that there is not wisdom that does not begin with fearing God. If you do not fear God, you are rejecting wisdom out of hand. You cannot come across wisdom that does not begin with you fearing God. You cannot get down the path of wisdom without starting at its entry point, the word of God.

If you do not know the Lord, understand that he tells you that fearing him is the starting point for wisdom. You will not, you cannot, figure out life without him. You must come to him in humble repentance and faith.

And, Christians, we should believe Scripture enough to agree with this Psalm. Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom. We should not try to make people think that we believe there is wisdom out there that does not have the fear of God as its starting point. And you and I can mislead people if we choose to make arguments or offer pieces of life advice that do not start with the fear of God and the word of God. Let’s be careful to see to it that we show, by our thinking, by our apologetics, by our counsel, and all else that we do that we know that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.