“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs” (Proverbs 10:11,12).
“There are simply too many notes.” That’s what Emperor Franz Joseph told Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the 1984 film Amadeus when asked his opinion of the composer’s latest opera. But the screenwriter had taken some liberties. Historians tell us that, in reality, the emperor remarked, “Too beautiful for our ears, my dear Mozart, and an awful lot of notes.”
Either way, the composer was miffed because his emperor had used too many words. There was another way. Franz Joseph should have followed the inspired advice of Solomon: “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues” (Proverbs 17:28).
Fewer words that destroy
Inspired advice indeed. Why do we so often feel the need to open our mouths in order to prove to everyone just how foolish we are? Why are we tempted to offer our “hot take” on things? Why can’t we all just keep our mouths shut and leave people guessing about how uninformed we are, rather than opening them up and removing all doubt?
I think I know. It’s because we have so much “information” literally at our fingertips in a way that past generations simply did not. We pull out our phones, rev up our search engines, read a few sentences, and assume we’re experts—without ever asking ourselves whether there may be more to the story.
Let’s use and proclaim [God’s] Word more often and keep our jagged words to ourselves.
Instead of being slow in declaring a verdict or opinion, we are quick to judge. Instead of being patient in forming our findings, we jump to immediate deductions. And then, worst of all, we open our mouths and let the world know what we think. But so often that means we’re forced to run roughshod over others who have taken the same shallow approach to fact-finding but have come to a different conclusion.
Simply put, in our media age, we are simply inundated with too many words—words that are destructive rather than constructive. Words that bite rather than heal. Words that supply far more heat than light. Most of us would be best served by following the divine advice given through Solomon and keeping our traps shut. St. James had it right when he described the destructive power of the tongue. He called it “a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).
More words that bring life
Let’s also remember this: God uses words to create and to save and to give life. Yes, “the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”
It’s no accident that God created the universe with words. And it shouldn’t surprise us that when Jesus came to save the world from sin and death, St. John described his saving advent as the Word becoming flesh and making his dwelling among us (John 1:14). And when St. Paul assures us that “faith comes through hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17), we shouldn’t doubt it. It’s simply the truth: God’s Word brings life and salvation perfectly and forever.
So let’s use and proclaim his Word more often and keep our jagged words to ourselves.
Author: Peter Prange
Volume 109, Number 08
Issue: August 2022