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Listen, Think, Speak

One of the fundamental rights of citizens of the United States is the freedom of speech.  The First Amendment of the United States’ Constitution guarantees that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…”  This means that citizens of the United States may say whatever they please without fear of government prosecution (although some limitations have been legislated due to security, slander, fraud, decency, etc.).  This preserves an environment in which ideas and opinions can be freely expressed and for which all citizens should be thankful.

Everyone has a right to speak, but that does not mean that everyone is worth hearing.  So much of what is communicated in this country and around the world is foolishness, falsehood, and filth.  Such messages are not only of no value, but also they are detrimental to those who hear them.  Smooth talkers have ways of convincing some people to accept their foolishness as wisdom, their falsehoods as truth, and their filth as entertainment (Rom. 16:18).  Their influence is evil and ungodly, so it is best not to listen to them.  As the children’s song says, “Be careful little ears what you hear.”

Nevertheless, it is always best to listen before making a judgment.  Hear a person’s words and examine them before accepting or rejecting his message.  Like the Bereans in Acts 17:11, compare a person’s words to the Scriptures “to see whether these things are so.”  Listen to his account of events as well as the accounts of others (Prov. 18:13).  If his words prove to be foolish, false, or filthy, then reject his message, rebuke him by the Scripture, and turn away from him (Rom. 16:17; 1Tim. 6:3-5; 2Tim. 2:14-16; 3:16-17; 4:1-2; 2John 10-11).  If his words are good, then accept his message act accordingly.  By this process, you will be able to identify who deserves to be heard and who does not.

The same diligence should be practiced before speaking.  James wrote, “But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:19-20).  A similar message is given in Proverbs 18:13 – “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.”  Many people have regretted saying something before they had heard enough to give a good answer.  They found that it was difficult or impossible to retract ignorant words spoken in haste.  Therefore, do not be too quick to react lest you should be guilty of speaking that which is foolish, false, or even filthy.  Proverbs 15:28 says, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”

Indeed, care must be exercised over every word that is spoken.  The Lord warned:

“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:36-37).

Paul wrote, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).  The best way to ensure that you speak careful, wholesome words is to follow the Scriptural formula that has been outlined above: listen, think, and then speak.  This is much better than the careless practice of speaking first, then listening, and finally regretting.

Therefore, let us observe our freedom of speech with careful reverence for God.  Let us understand that the ability to speak words is a quality that we have been given by God in His image (Gen. 1:26-27), for no other creature has this ability.  In reverence for God and His image, let us speak what is wise, true, and good, and let us reject those who speak foolishness, falsehood, and filth contrary to God’s word.  In what we hear and what we say, let us not lean upon our own understanding, but let us trust in God and His judgment (Prov. 3:5).  By doing so, we will ensure that both the words we hear and the words we say will be blessings to us and glory to God.

Stacey E. Durham



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