Do We Talk Too Much?
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.” Prov. 10:19
“He who has knowledge spares his words,
And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.
Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace;
When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.” Prov. 17:27-28
Having read these little tidbits of wisdom, it would probably be a worthwhile endeavor for all of us if we stopped to consider our speech habits and how much we talk. Do we talk too much? Do we dominate every conversation? Do we feel the need to add something to the conversation, no matter the subject? Do we always seem to have the last word? It’s not God is encouraging us to be introverts who never have anything to say, for this book, along with a number of New Testament passages, teaches us the value of “a word fitly spoken” (Prov. 25:11). And it’s okay that some are more talkative by nature and others quieter, but just as the reticent need to learn when to speak, the gregarious may need to learn when to be quiet.
That the Lord counsels against the multitude of words should be enough to teach us restraint, but consider some things that may be behind the admonitions to spare our words. And in a nod to our modern world and its social media, we might want to include in our self-evaluation the questions of whether we write or post too much.
Talking too much may be a symptom of a greater problem—pride. Over and over again, both the Old and New Testaments warn about the dangers of pride (1 Pet. 5:5-6) and if we are the ones dominating every conversation and always needing the last word, it may be a red flag signaling the presence of too much pride. We need to be honest with ourselves about how often we try to top the story someone else has told. Some people talk out of nervousness, while others simply seem to loathe silence, but it is clear that some talk because they consider their opinions, insights, and tales more important, more compelling, or more interesting than those of anyone else. Could our speech be trying to tell us we are failing to “esteem others better than [ourselves]? Phil. 2:3
We are clearly instructed not to lie (Col. 3:9), but if we are constantly talking, we may end up embellishing a story or repeating something we haven’t verified. We may not set out to lie, but everyone has a limited supply of verified facts to share or interesting stories to tell, so our multitude of words ends up leading to the sin of dishonesty.
“A perverse man sows strife, And a whisperer separates the best of friends” (Prov. 16:28). “He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Prov. 17:9). Because Rom. 1:29 lists whisperers and backbiters (gossips and slanderers—ESV) among those committing sins worthy of death, we must not dismiss this lightly. Gossip is wrong at all times, but it is an undeniable truth that when we talk constantly we usually end up talking about people. As with lying, we may not intend to be a whisperer or the one who repeats things which need to be kept to ourselves, but when we ramble on we find ourselves needing new material and too often that material ends up being a story that hurts someone or some relationship.
There are some other things we could point out, but in closing let’s not fail to realize that even when are not bragging, being dishonest, or gossiping, talking too much can be a source of real irritation to others. Instead of being a light of the world (Matt. 5:14-16) and one whose life wins others to Christ (1 Cor. 9:19-23), we can become the kind of person people seek to avoid. Our influence and reputation are too important to be destroyed or at least severely damaged by the inability to spare our words.
Do we talk too much? “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise” (Prov. 10:19). “He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive” (Prov. 17:27-28).
All quotes from the New King James Version, copyright 1995, Thomas Nelson Publishing, Inc.