Psalm 39:1-3 (ESV)

To the choirmaster: to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.

I said, “I will guard my ways,

that I may not sin with my tongue;

I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,

so long as the wicked are in my presence.”

[2] I was mute and silent;

I held my peace to no avail,

and my distress grew worse.

[3] My heart became hot within me.

As I mused, the fire burned;

then I spoke with my tongue:

You have been involved in a dispute. Someone has slandered you. Perhaps the tension is chronic. You encounter them everyday at work. The relationship with a spouse is tense. Someone in the church doesn’t like the way you minister. There are people who just don’t like you. The temptation to lash out at them is great. You could couch it in soft language such as “I love you brother but I have to say …”, or “I have remained silent for far too long now …”.

The result from such things is rarely positive. When we are with them the tension rises and when we are not we think of what we could have said and what we should have said. We bemoan the fact that we didn’t think of this real zapper of a comment while in the debate, but we assure ourselves that next time we won’t be so negligent. “As I mused the fire burned” (verse 3). He’s stewing. The opening resolution is very wise. Hold your tongue.

Of course, holding one’s tongue means that you won’t be able to make your infallible arguments to your opponent. It means that he might win. It means that things may not develop the way you wanted them to. But there is great wisdom in the resolution.

Words spoken out of the angry resentful fires that burn in the heart are rarely what needs to be said. They are gasoline on an already incendiary situation. The urge to speak the oft rehearsed words of attack or defense comes from pride. We are angry that our point of view was not received. We are angry that our opponent thinks he has won when we know that these words would cause him to see his folly. We want to see him surrender. We want to get our own way.

This of course does not mean there is never a time to speak or make your point. But we need to know that there are bigger issues involved than our triumph over those who oppose us (verses 4-6).

There are times when correction, rebuke, instruction are required. But we need to know that such times are reserved for when our motives are right and we are not merely trying to win or show that our viewpoint really was the better one.

Christianity is not mostly about doing great exploits for God that will cause people to marvel at your faith and stamina. It is mostly about little unseen and unknown acts of faithfulness to God that will never make anyone stand up and take notice. The kind word, the good work done in secret. The predominance of humility, lack of vengeance, and pursuing greater goals than winning a debate are where the real battles in the Christian heart take place . We lose them far too often, it seems.

Let us resolve to guard our ways so that we will not sin with our tongues, especially when the wicked are in our presence. Who knows what blessings for eternity God will give because we valued Him over the sinful pride of triumphing over those who do not see our point of view all the time? Thank you Lord, for putting such a reminder, so relevant and timely, into our lives.