Mean What You Say, Say What You Mean

Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words. When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God.

“We have two ears and one mouth, therefore we should listen twice as much as we speak.”  I heard a pastor preach this once in a sermon about listening to God.  It really got me thinking, “how often do I ask God for things when 1) I don’t really deserve it or 2) I never stop long enough to hear his response?”  Again, Solomon is talking about pride.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he continues to talk about pride throughout Ecclesiastes since our sinfulness is a result of pride.

Solomon’s voice is changing.  Instead of talking figuratively or in third person, he is now talking directly to his audience.  He wants us to understand the importance of what he is saying and make sure we can’t shrug it off as, “he is saying this about someone else, not me.”  He is telling this to everyone who reads it…that means you!  It intrigues me that Solomon says do not let your speech cause you to sin.  Usually we talk about sinning with our speech; but here we see the opposite side.

What does Solomon mean?  He is instructing us to only say or promise that which we intend to carry out.  He is especially talking about our conversations with God.  Jesus tells us the same thing in His sermon on the mount in Matthew 5, 33 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’34 But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.

It’s easy for us to speak before someone is finished talking, isn’t it?  We don’t want to hear, we want to be heard.  However, we must recognize that it is more important to hear what is being said and understand it instead of get our point across.  I do it all the time.  My impulsive speech causes me to not even recognize if someone else is finished or not.  Jesus is telling us here that it is better for us to not speak at all than say something just for the sake of speaking.  We don’t know or take to heart what God is saying because we won’t shut up and listen.

Solomon’s last sentence is simple: respect God and listen what He has to say because aside from His Word, the rest is emptiness.

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