The Dangerous Mouth

“Do not rush with your mouth and may your heart not be hasty to utter a word before God. For God is in heaven and you are on earth; thus let your words be few. For a dream enters as a great undertaking but a fool’s voice has great words.”

(Ecclesiastes 5:1-2 {5:2-3 in English Bibles})

There are two notions here that Solomon brings together, both of which are taught repeatedly across the scriptures. The first is to be careful how you use your mouth — tame your tongue. James writes that we are to be quick to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19 and Paul writes that we are to speak evil of no one (Titus 3:2), and if we left the admonition there, I expect that all of us would be humbled and driven to repent. 

Yet, the Scriptures also speak of how we utter our oaths before the Lord. We are not to use the Lord’s name carelessly nor are we to use it for vain purposes (Exodus 20:7). We are also called upon to fulfill the vows that we make in the Lord’s name (Numbers 30:2; Psalm 22:25). And once again, if we look at the vows we have made to our spouses, to our churches, and to our communities — all in the name of the Lord — we all most likely would once again be driven to repentance…and this is good.

Solomon brings both together, though, and makes sure that we clearly understand that we must not be hasty with our words before God or men. And so, he concludes that we should let our words be few. Oh, how challenging that is for most of us…if not all of us. Especially for those of us who use words for our vocation. The principle here is simple. It is not necessarily the number of words we speak so much as it is that every word be measured and counted so as that it will build up and not tear down (1 Corinthians 14:26; James 3:1-12).

Solomon closes with a contrast in verse 3. With the pursuit of a dream there is much work and labor — it is a great undertaking. Such is the way of a wise man. Yet the fool talks about his dreams but never pursues them. He dreams the impossible dream, as it were, but the dream is impossible to him because he will not labor toward the goal. Yet, the industrious will achieve those things that the fool only talks about. One thing that I learned in my five years as a High School teacher is that IQ is highly overrated. I would rather have a motivated student with average IQ than an unmotivated student with extremely high IQ. It is to the motivated that the world will go.

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