“Let another praise you and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)
“Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:9-10)
What do these two passages have in common? They both describe ways that the fools in the world today use their tongues rather than stay silent. They praise themselves, and they casually curse God and others, without a second thought. As a matter of fact, in some circles doing both is a sign that you’re “righteous, dude!” Not so the wise!
Concerning the issue of self-glorification, Paul provides an excellent method of turning self-boasting into gospel witnessing. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-13 he begins to mimic the false teachers who have been boasting about themselves, claiming to have superior spiritual experiences and more authentic ethnic lineage. So Paul boasts (in the third person) about his own visions. But then he drops the irony and boasts in the grace of God to make him weak with some physical ailment (“a thorn in the flesh”). The apostle’s point is that God demonstrates his work most powerfully through human weakness, not greatness. * Would you like to be great in the eyes of your co-workers, neighbors, or acquaintances who live for earthly gain? Boast about yourself. Would you like to be wise in the ways of the Lord and used powerfully for his glory, rather than your own? Stay silent, or do as Paul did by boasting about your weakness and Christ’s strength in you. In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth he wrote, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5)
The second issue, cursing, is a sin and should never be heard from the mouth of a Christian. Using God’s name in vain is the way most people think of the commandment that forbids mocking, insulting, cursing, or ridiculing God. The silent generation and some of us baby-boomers remember the saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” which is the virtual opposite of what is happening in the world today. There are so many ways that people use God’s name, and specifically Jesus’s name, as an exclamation of woe or with simple irreverence. Do I need to spell them out (hint, hint)? A three-letter exclamation that is overused today should sting our ears. Whenever people use God’s name in anything but a holy manner, they are sinning and bringing judgment on themselves. So Christians are not to use God’s name, but instead use, “Wow,” or other neutral phrases. What we do when others abuse God’s name is more complex and depends on many factors. As for myself, I try to let people know that it is offensive to me.
When will you be silent and when will you speak? Think about it!
* ESV Study Bible, 2008, Crossway Bibles, Good News Publishers, Note on 2 Cor. 12:1-13.