Book of Proverbs: 31 verses from 31 chapters in 31 days – When to keep quiet (13:3)

Day 13: When to keep quiet (13:3)

He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction

Our first thought is to continue where we left off yesterday, about the power of the tongue. In our text, it is more than implied that it may well go better for us if we say little: “self-control means controlling the tongue! A quick retort can ruin everything”. We may all look back with regret when we said something when it was better to say nothing. The moral is: a few well-chosen words are better than many that aren’t. We want to speak when we think we have something needful to say but, if we do, we should adopt the true, necessary and kind principle and ask three questions: is what we say factually correct; do we really need to say it and does it lift people up rather than put them down? We do well to remember: “let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few” Ecclesiastes 5:2.

For our second thought, we are reminded of the importance of hope: “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life” (13:12). Few can live comfortably if hope, whatever it happens to be in, is absent. Our motive for living is because we have hope and, for Christians, it includes the coming of Christ and eternal life. But in our text, hope is delayed, indefinitely perhaps, and as a result the seat of our emotions, our heart, is sick. True to its lack of moralising, Solomon does not identify where our hopes ought to lay. It merely points out the consequences when hope is or isn’t forthcoming.

Our third thought returns to a theme already touched on and it will be again, for example: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (22:6). Another just as memorable but more controversial text is today’s: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (13:14). Beating a child who misbehaves does not sit well in our culture today. It is not our intention to say if and when to apply such punishment. It is also noted that no-one who has children brings them up 100% perfectly and for some parents it is far lower than that. But it might equally be observed that unruly behaviour in a child, that might we extend into adulthood, is often a result of a lack of parental discipline. Solomon was, as we have noted earlier, a failed father, given what we know about his son, Rehoboam. He knew what he needed to do and, while we can’t score his parenting record, we can say Solomon did at least offer sound advice that all parents would do well to apply.

Prayer: help us Lord to speak only when we need to. When we do, help us say the right thing in the right way. Help us be good parents in bringing up children.

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