December 18, 2020

Shut Up and Listen

 "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." Proverbs 18:2

We live in a day when the right to self expression, codified in America by our constitutional right to free speech, is not seen as something you are simply entitled to. Expressing what is happening to you and in you at any given moment is not something we are only allowed to do in our social media age, but is considered a positive virtue. How does this line up with Proverbs?

The writer in Proverbs 18:2 seems less enamored with free expression than the typical modern American. In fact, the free expression of one's opinion is juxtaposed, held up against and contrasted with, finding pleasure in understanding. Whereas the dispenser of this biblical wisdom might give advice that sounds like an old school dad- "you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion" - the modern individual, who sees self-expression as the highest ideal, might counter - "ah, yes, but I have seven social media accounts. Who has time for using their ears?"

Of course the one who freely expresses their thoughts is doubly doomed, and the Sage of Proverbs knows this. First of all, to go freely venting your thoughts will make you look the fool, thus he gives advice to bridle your tongue in chapter 17. "Whoever restrains his words has knowledge [...] Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent." (v27a, 28). Subtext: if he opens those lips the sea of his folly will burst forth. And even the man already acquainted with knowledge knows better than to think he always has something to say.

And if you want to learn, to acquire knowledge (the highest of goals, see Proverbs 1:1-7), it is going to involve a lot of shutting your mouth-or restraint from typing-and instead listening. You have to shut up in order to listen to others and, as James 1:19-21 would say, you have to shut up to hear from God.

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About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (