“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.“ Ecclesiastes 5:1-3
“God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” This is more than just good advice, it’s a fundamental truth of the spiritual life. While reading the book of Proverbs I stumbled over a verse that made me stop and think. It’s a verse the Lord applied directly to me.
The verse is Proverbs 10:8 “The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.” That’s a wonderful picture, isn’t it? A chattering fool. A simpleton with a dunce cap talking up a storm.
I once knew a woman like that. She had had a hard life and along the way something seemed to come loose inside her brain. Every time I saw her I knew I was in for a 20 minute monologue. Not complaining, really, just non-stop talk. If you tried to interrupt her she would raise her voice and start talking faster. If she got you cornered there was no escape. I suppose you would call her a compulsive talker.
What’s more, she came to church every Sunday and was as loyal as she could be. Whenever we had a church supper, she would be in there with the rest of the women talking ninety miles as hour. We became good friends, and many times I was glad to see her because when we talked I didn’t have to say anything.
Something like that must have been in Solomon’s mind when he wrote this proverb. A chattering fool is someone who just won’t stop talking. And in context, it must refer to a person who always has an explanation, a reason, an excuse for not doing what he is supposed to do.
That’s hard, isn’t it? Just to do what you are told. Most kids have a hard time learning that. So do most adults. Our natural impulse when we are told to do something is to ask, “Why?” That presumes that unless we fully understand or agree we don’t have to obey. As a general principle, that kind of attitude will get you into trouble more often than not.
I’ve been thinking about that in my own life. Too often I talk as an excuse not to obey. When a soldier is given an order, the proper response is obedience, not discussion. There is a time to talk and a time to listen and there is also a time to do as you are told. As Solomon says, when the time for obedience has come, too much talk makes you look like a chattering fool.
Lord, help me to say less and mean it more. Amen.
Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.