Speak Up, or Not?

“Wise people do not make a show of their knowledge.” Proverbs 12:23 NLT

“Someone else’s need to know should not become your need to speak.”

My thoughts today ask the question, “speak up, or not?”

My very first “sermon” as a young teen was in a youth service. It was only minutes after I had begun speaking in a small church building, still bigger than required for the even smaller number there to hear me.

Suddenly, from about the third row back an elderly man everyone called Daddy Messer – who was very hard of hearing – turned to the nearest person several rows behind him and said loudly enough for everyone to hear, “Can’t hardly hear the boy, can you?” It’s amazing that I ever became a pastor after that. Clearly that was a time I needed to speak up.

There are times to speak up and there are times to shut up. Too many times people confuse the two. Real wisdom is found among those who know when to do which. Because you feel the need to speak does not mean that you should; nor does just because you don’t want to speak mean you should stay silent. Either could be inappropriate depending on the occasion. The situation and your good judgment should help you determine the best thing to say at that particular time or to that particular person.

I had a relative that had an answer for anything that was asked, even if they weren’t sure that was the right answer. I guess they might have figured that if someone had to ask, they wouldn’t know whether the answer was right or not. The other day as I quickly responded in a conversation, I suddenly had the haunting thought that I might have become that relative. God help me!

Though I thought I had an answer, my words were not prefaced physically or figuratively by, “I’m not sure, but I think . .” The quickness of the answer, the tone of my voice and apparent certainty suggested knowledge I am not sure now that I possessed on that particular subject.

I should have remembered what I thought I learned long ago – just because someone asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to give them an answer. Someone else’s need to know should not become your need to speak. You were never meant to be the source of all wisdom. It is possible to be knowledgeable without also being prudent – “careful and sensible; marked by sound judgment.” Isn’t that a great word? How much better would life be if we were described that way more often?

When someone is pressing you for an answer, take the time to think about it, make time to pray for insight and God’s wisdom, carefully gather and consider the facts, and weigh your words, then offer them rather than impose them. The Bible warns, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Proverbs 18:13 NIV. Clearly there are times to keep quiet.

I had a teacher many years ago that told our class (thankfully not just me), “It is better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

I have found that to be practical advice; neither I, nor many others, succeed at mastering that. I guess my teacher had read Solomon’s advice in today’s verse, “Smart people keep quiet about what they know, but stupid people advertise their ignorance.” Proverbs 12:23 TEV.

My prayer for you today is to use knowledge wisely and kindly to help not hurt.