“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 irrelevant angry-accusations. All of a 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. It was 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). Still, eventually I found that the truth of this Proverb is life-saving, soul redeeming, and grace-giving. I have found that the reality of the Proverb is life-saving because it often hinders me from entertaining my life-suffocating thoughts. It also keeps me from speaking life-destroying words, acting on 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 also motivate me (if I yield to its wisdom) to acknowledge the self-centered desires that are driving the words that I want to say. 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 essential aspects of the soul-redeeming, sanctifying grace work of God.
Finally, I have also found that this Proverb is grace-giving. I have found it to be grace-giving because its wisdom drives me to prayer. When I do not relieve emotional unrest in my soul by defending myself – I am more likely to pray in the effort to alleviate my inner turmoil. Since prayer carries me to the throne of God’s all-sufficient grace – this Proverb has become for me a grace-giving truth, as well (Hebrews 4:16).
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 mouth, – wisdom’s flare lights-up the caverns of my momentarily-darkened soul. It reminds me, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”