“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Proverbs 10:19
No kidding, right? When I was first married this verse was my husband’s ‘trump-card’ when we were in an argument. I would be prattling on in self-defense, or with some string of irrelevant angry-accusations, and all of sudden- in a triumphantly low and calm voice- my husband would say, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking.” That statement would usually provide a momentary cease-fire in our fight, an opportunity to consider the questions ‘Is what I am saying right now pleasing to God?’ or ‘Have I said too much?’ At that point in the argument, I could do one of two things. I could gather my self-justifying thoughts, and “re-load” my semi-automatic mouth. Or, I could repent by momentarily putting my mouth on lock, and allow my wayward heart to be quieted by God’s grace (at least until I could speak the truth in love).
Embarrassingly, I usually chose the former (in the first year of marriage), but eventually I found that the truth of this Proverb is life-saving, soul redeeming, and grace-giving. I have found that the truth of the Proverb is life-saving because it often hinders me from entertaining my life-suffocating thoughts, from speaking life-destroying words, and from acting on the many life-corroding impulses of my flesh. I have also found that this Proverb is a soul-redeeming truth because it reminds me that it is out of the abundance of my evil heart that I often want to speak. This reminder can motivate me (if I yield to its wisdom) to acknowledge the self-centered desires that are motivating the words that I want to say, and an acknowledgment such as this, usually leads to confession and repentance. It is in this way, that the truth of this Proverb has become soul-redeeming for me, for confession and repentance are both fruits of the soul-redeeming, sanctifying grace work of God. And, finally, I have also found that this Proverb is grace-giving. I have found it to be grace-giving because when I do not relieve an emotional unrest in my soul and my desire for justification before others with my “American right to freedom of speech”- I am forced to prayer. Since prayer carries me to the throne of God’s all-sufficient grace, and sets me at rest in the mighty stronghold of God’s redeeming, grace- this Proverb has become for me a grace-giving truth, as well.
In short, this verse is a ‘check-point’ for my soul. Because now, eighteen years later, although I still have disagreements with my husband, this verse has become to me a door of hope (not a call for a ‘momentary cease fire’). For, when I feel myself heading towards the weapon’s armory of my fallen heart; about to go into ‘attack mode’ with my Best Beloved (or someone else), wisdom’s flare often lights-up the caverns of my momentarily-darkened soul, reminding me “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”