Why Must We Open Our Mouths?
If you work in corporate America, you likely attend a lot of meetings. Those meetings likely go something like this:
Let’s say there’s on average 8-12 people in this meeting. Generally, the person who calls the meeting runs or facilitates it while there are usually three or four people who do most of the talking while the others just listen. As the meeting concludes, the facilitator usually asks everyone if they are in agreement or if they have anything to add. Two or three people will make detailed summaries or statements, and then nearly everyone else will repeat, in their own words, what’s already been said.
When I’m in these meetings, I rarely say anything in summary because everything has already been said – I see no need to repeat what’s been stated nor do I see value in having to say something that everyone already knows or has heard. So why do people repeat what others have already said? What compels us to feel like we must open our mouths?
Is it fear that others will judge us or criticize us? Is it pride to be boastful and prove our knowledge and/or importance? Do we want others to value us more and give us credit and/or respect??? Or are we just proving we were paying attention?
King Solomon tells us in Proverbs 13:3: “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.”
We also often open our mouths far too freely when we get angry or get frustrated. As if to blame others for our thoughts or need to feel anger towards someone or something. Our frustration leads to words that harm – words we often regret but can never be un-heard. Jesus’ brother James reminds us in James 1:19; “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
The act of opening our mouths, too often, is also a key “attribute” used by politicians and those professing political knowledge and/or expertise. There is the old quip which asks; “How can you tell a politician is lying – they are lying when their mouths are moving!”
Do they do this to prove how smart they are, or how inept their opponent is? So, should we speak out more often and arrogantly when we feel the need to prove our intelligence? Is it important for people to see and hear how smart we are? There’s another old adage here; “It’s better to be thought of as ignorant, than to open one’s mouth, and remove all doubt!”
It seems another trend in politics, since way back in Roman days and before, is to shout how good your political party is at something – making sure the something you’re boasting about, is actually something your party is terrible at. This something is almost always a likely strength of the opposing party. Ironically, put another way - you say your great at what you’re terrible at, and make sure what you say your great at – is actually your opponents greatest strength!!! Jeremiah tells us in chapter 9:8 of the Bible book he penned; “Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully. With their mouths they all speak cordially to their neighbors, but in their hearts, they set traps for them.”
Last but not least, why do we open our mouths to bare false witness or to deflect blame from ourselves to others. If we know an act is so bad that we have to lie and point a finger towards others, why do we commit the act in the first place? God told Moses to convey to His people; “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.”
Words are important – they are the foundation of all communication, and essentially all of life. We must choose our words wisely because words can do more harm, often without thinking, than virtually any other thing a person can do, say, or write. God knew how critical the use of our words would be and how important listening, before speaking would be. Because He knew this, He made a point to emphasize this, when He gave the commandments to Moses. His ninth commandment, as written in Exodus 20:16 is; “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
When God sent His son Jesus, to walk among us, to teach us, to die for us, and to bring us a new covenant with the Lord, this message did not change. Two-hundred and seventy-eight times in the Bible the word “Listen” appears. Jesus Himself said “He who has ears, let him hear.” Eight times He said this – It would be a phrase He would use more than any other.
God created us with two ears and only one mouth. I don’t believe He did this because of physical necessity. I think He did this to convey to us that listening was two times more important than speaking. At least four key times, Jesus told us to listen – it is a common theme throughout His entire ministry.
So , why does it seem must we open our mouths, because it is obvious that we are not listening.
Listen, as Jesus tells us:
Matthew 15:10 (NIV)
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.”
Mark 7:14 (NIV)
Again, Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.”
Mark 4:9 (NIV)
Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
John 18:37 (NIV)
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”