Proverbs 29:11, “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.”
Discretion in our conversation is something we all have to practice. While we Christians have the truth and know it well and so can teach it and proclaim it boldly there are times that we as teachers may be tempted to veer from the simple truth of the Bible and begin to attack people personally who are not there to defend themselves or may be present but simply should not be attacked from the pulpit or by use of our microphone or internet and print media as they are at a disadvantage not necessarily having such a platform or the prestige and audience we may have.
While it is unwise to argue with those who buy ink by the barrel those that have resources like that also have a responsibility to use ink well and not draw any more ink from the barrel than necessary to state the case we are trying to make. It is a waste of time and resources and if the subject veers into personal attacks we are doing harm besides.
The politics of personal destruction and vitriol should not be the manner of preaching the Christian resorts to when we know quite well that such a discussion is unnecessary for teaching the subject under consideration.
That does not mean that sin should be concealed nor that those who are out of line should not be called out as the prophets often spoke truth to power and paid dearly for it as martyred saints, but it does mean that we should not allow our pride nor our personal animus or simple dislike of individuals to get the best of us.
We can not afford to go on tirades against people who have done us no wrong just because we dislike them as we are trying to convert people to our cause, not trying to cause divisions over inconsequential personality conflicts.
Let then our divisions be over doctrine and matters of eternal consequence; not trivial matters of temporal preference.
Being able to distinguish the difference between making a stand on doctrinal issues in a way that does not harm the individuals who are so mistaken about them and just letting the Devil use our carnal natures against us in order to stir up strife and disagreements on purely personal grounds is a skill that comes with maturity and experience in public discourse.
Even in private conversation we must be careful about what we say about people if we do not want to hurt them. After all we can be the targets of retribution from the kind of people that exact revenge after a bad ending to a relationship. Often we become the target of the principally injured party, but more often their friends and relatives when offering them support will target us and stir up other kinds of trouble so if we can avoid that drama without compromising our morality and doctrine we should.
The effect of hurtful words can be devastating on a inter-personal level and can harm employment opportunities and can be legally troublesome because while some people can be pushed around the powerful do not forgive easily and are rather hateful and vindictive themselves so it wise to shut up and only say what is necessary when confronting an error of doctrine, practice, or policy.
Retribution can be irksome and when people are hurt or insulted they strike out and we already have enough foes to deal with in this life simply by preaching and teaching the offense of the cross that we do not need to make more trouble for ourselves by interjecting personal dislike of people into sermons and private conversations. We must remember that our enemies are always looking for yet another excuse to remove us from our platforms so self inflicted wounds and unforced errors are blunders we should avoid.
Besides legitimate claims of defamation and slander against you if you cross a particular line damaging a person’s reputation maliciously even truthful statements that are well intentioned can cause you trouble as the Devil will exacerbate and exaggerate the conflict so that a person can play the victim to elicit sympathy and direct a mob’s anger against you.
The fruit of the Spirit includes meekness, gentleness, and temperance and we should try to display those attributes when publicly speaking and when engaged in private conservation.
In the Bible keeping your mouth shut is called “holding your peace” because words stir up strife which can lead to war.
It is bad enough to speak evil of dignities (those evil or even good rulers of this wicked world) when unnecessary as that is stupid thing to do, but it is an even worse sin when you speak badly of a neighbor who has done you no wrong. It is breech of manners and shows a disquieted and undisciplined spirit.
Use few words and only those necessary when dealing with whatever subject you approach. Discretion is a virtue.
Ecclesiastes 10:20 Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.
Proverbs 11:12 He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.
Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. 3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
4 A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.
It is often better to say nothing at all when nothing good can be said and be counted wise than to run your mouth and look like a fool. Everyone knows the drunken ravings of foolish men is to be ignored and you lose credibility if you speak like a drunkard.
Proverbs 17:27 He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. 28 Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
Proverbs 16:32 He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
Proverbs 14:29 He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.
Proverbs 15:18 A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.
Proverbs11:13 A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.
Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
II Peter 2:10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.