In the poetic cadences of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, the Teacher declares there is a time for silence. Most of us are practiced in speaking, but silence is another matter altogether.
A spark of distress can ignite a conflagration of misunderstanding when someone, unable to recognize a time to be silent, disseminates a skewed point of view by mouth, text, email, or Facebook. An unbridled tongue in the grapevine or internet can cause immense damage.
When a governance group agrees to confidentiality, how often does this shared commitment break down? Under the pressure of mistrust (or relentless curiosity) supposedly mature and responsible leaders are unable to honor a time to be silent.
At the times when leaders cannot tell the whole story and scuttlebutt is flying, the desire to explain is powerful. Though waves of misunderstanding may wash over the leaders, self-justifying defenses only compound the trouble. It is a time to keep silent.
Notable silences in the Bible can inspire us. We can listen to other viewpoints without interruption (Acts 15:12). We can resist the urge to offer an opinion, if only for a week (Job 2:13). We can hold our tongue through a season of distress (Ezek. 24:20-27). Under the duress of false accusations, we can keep silent (Isa. 53:7; Mk. 14:61).
Hopefully, for us who follow Jesus, the day will soon come when the live coals of God’s sanctifying grace purify even our tongues (Isa. 6:6; Jam. 3:2).