Last week I wrote how Christians ought to be good and angry at the same time, especially in the midst of difficulty. Today I want to revisit Psalm 4 and learn more from David.
After saying, “Be angry, and do not sin,” the Psalmist reminds himself to “ponder in your own heart on your bed, and BE SILENT.” (Psalm 4:4, emphasis mine)
Now, if you haven’t recognized it, human beings weren’t created to be silent. God designed people, made in his own image, to be creatures with an ability to communicate through spoken language. Lions roar, dogs bark, and birds chirp, but only human beings can form syllables with their mouth.
One of the most exciting moments for a parent is when their child forms their first words. Even if it’s gargled and incoherent, we’re eager to tell friends and family that our kid has said something! Conversely, one of the saddest experiences for people is when a loved one loses their ability to speak, either due to disability, injury, or death.
So, if spoken language is meant to be celebrated, and if people weren’t created to be silent, why does David tell us to keep our mouths shut? It’s simple; David is a good theologian and recognizes a recurring theme in Scripture - “For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)
You and I, like David, have a contaminated heart. Whether it's greed, jealously, perversion, anger, or a host of other sins, our tongues will expose those heart-felt sentiments through words. Specifically applied to suffering, our tongues will reveal our bitterness and doubt towards God.
In these moments, David counsels us to take time alone – “ponder in your own heart on your bed” – and not say anything at all. Why? Because we have an excellent track record of hurting others with our words.
The Lord knows the thoughts of our heart (Psalm 94:11), so we’re not keeping silent so as to "hide" our sin from God; we're keeping silent so as to protect others from our sin. Proverbs 10:19 says, "When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable" (NASB). In the video below, I talk more about this idea of silence and its impact on those around us.
Finally, as you think about your language, I want you to be careful: the solution to curing your sinful tongue won't be found in timing strategies. It may be helpful to “count to 10” before responding, but that’s not a lasting solution. Fundamental change for your language is found when you cry out like David in Psalm 51:10 – “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”
If you want to have a godly tongue, you need to have a clean heart. And be encouraged: Jesus is in the process of cleansing your heart. One day, it'll be free from disease, but until then, consider the power of silence.
Paul David Tripp
Learn more about my book, "War of Words."
- How have you been hurt by the words of others?
- How have hurt others with your words?
- What have your words revealed about your heart this week?
- How can silence be more powerful than words?
- What can you do to participate in the "cleansing" of your heart?