August 13, 2007

Delighting in the Day, Part 5: Let Your Words be Few

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. Ecclesiastes 5.2

I learned recently (from Alistair Begg) that the great Civil War legend, Stonewall Jackson was a great lover of the Lord’s Day. Due to his high office, he was one of the busiest men in the world. Yet he always prevented himself from doing any of his secular work on Sunday. Nor would he allow his mail to travel on a Sunday. He calculated the distance and time of arrival of all his correspondence to avoid making others work on Sunday.

But one thing I found most interesting of all—Jackson refrained, when humanly possible, from even talking about secular matters on the Lord’s Day. If someone in his household brought up a secular topic, such as politics, fashion, or employment, he would smile kindly and say, “We will talk about that tomorrow.” And no one thought him a killjoy or a legalist!

So what was going on? Why did this man refuse to talk about work or play on Sunday? I think he understood the need to focus his mind completely upon the things of God on the Lord’s Day. And I think he also understood Ecclesiastes 5.2. One of the quickest ways to get yourself sidetracked from the things of God is to be constantly talking about this and that. So, when Jackson had a day on which he did not have to talk about his work, or other secular topics, he “let his words be few.” A good practice for every day of the week, but especially the Lord’s Day.

Now, let me say that, if we all practiced this discipline, our worship experiences would be much fuller. What if our sole topic of Sunday conversation was God? Some of us would have a lot less to say, but that would be OK. At least we wouldn’t be distracted by talk about current events, yesterday’s leisure activities, and the general and harmless hob-knobbing that can be done just as happily on any other day. And the fewer the distractions, the better the worship!

This is why I have encouraged silence and contemplation instead of chatter before our worship services. Not because I am a killjoy, but because “when there are many words, transgression is unavoidable” (Proverbs 10.19). But silence lends itself towards self-examination and meditation on God.

So, let’s not be “hasty in word”—especially on Sunday. Instead, let’s delight in the Day of the Lord by “letting our words be few.”

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