Thursday, 01 May 2014 16:47

To Speak or Not to Speak

Written by  Lou Priolo, Eastwood Counseling Center
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King Solomon said, “There is. . . a time to keep silent  and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7b). Do you know the time and circumstance for each option? 

 

Because there are a number of familiar Scripture passages that seem to indicate silence is the preferable option, many Christians err on the side of keeping quiet.  But is this always the best option?

 

Not necessarily! Here are five biblical communication principles along with some corresponding Scripture passages from which the principles have been extrapolated, that shed light on the “speaking up” alternative. It is my hope that by unpacking them, you may find more freedom to communicate when and as you ought.

 

 

1. Sometimes, to not speak is a sin. There are many situations when we are obligated to speak. When we refuse to do what God tells us we are required to do, we are sinning.

 

 

“When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand.”(Ezekiel 33:8)

 

 

Sometimes we are commanded to speak, for example, when asked questions by a person in position of authority.

 

 

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14; see also 7:4)

 

 

Sometimes we are obligated to speak by virtue of biblical injunctions that require the use of communication to carry out the biblical directions. For example, when you know that a fellow believer is burdened and you do not say anything to help him carry that burden, you sin my omitting your responsibility to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

 

 

2. Because love does not act unbecomingly (it is not rude; 1 Corinthians 13:5a), it does not impolitely become unresponsive, but rather gives an appropriate answer. Most Americans consider it quite rude to not respond to a direct question. Similarly, some statements, though not interrogatives, implicitly obligate the receiver to a response which, if not given (or at least acknowledged) will be taken as rudely offensive.

 

 

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:6)

 

 

Give preference to one another in (outdo one another in showing) honor.(Romans 12:10)

 

 

3. Love takes the initiative to express itself—even when it may “hurt” the person being loved. Love gives another what he needs, not necessarily what he wants. It follows then, that it is not necessarily a sin to “hurt someone’s feelings”—as long as what “hurt” him is the fact that he did not receive what he wanted, but rather he did receive what he needed.

 

 

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not so that you would be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.

 (2 Corinthians 2:4)

 

 

4. Those in superior positions (parents, bosses, teachers, rulers) have a right and responsibility to request information from their subordinates. Those in subordinate positions have a responsibility to open up to (communicate with) their superiors. When someone in a position of authority has a biblical “need to know” or a biblical right to know something, and we conceal that information from him, we are sinning (concealment is a form of lying).

 

 

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

(Proverbs 25:2)

 

 

Since the word of the king is authoritative, who will say to him, “What are you doing?”

(Ecclesiastes 8:4)

 

 

5. Sometimes we must speak even when we are asked to keep quiet. God doesn’t give anyone absolute authority. No one has the authority to give a gag order to a Christian who is required to speak (i.e., no one has the authority to command a believer to disobey God).

 

 

And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20)

 

 

Finally, consider the instructions of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians:

 

 

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also

(2 Corinthians 6:11–13 NIV ).

 

 

In this intimate epistle, Paul reminds the Corinthians of his love, affection, and concern for them. He has opened his heart to them and urges them to open their hearts to him. You cannot open up and clam up at the same time. May God grant all of the discretion and courage necessary to know when to speak and when to keep silent.

 

 

 

 

Last modified on Monday, 12 May 2014 16:50
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