The Last Word
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart. Ecclesiastes 5:2
One day during a university philosophy class, a student made some inflammatory remarks about the professor’s views. To the surprise of the other students, the teacher thanked him and moved on to another comment. When he was asked later why he didn’t respond to the student, he said, “I’m practicing the discipline of not having to have the last word.”
This teacher loved and honored God, and he wanted to embody a humble spirit as he reflected this love. His words remind me of another Teacher—this one from long ago, who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. Although not addressing how to handle an angry person, he said that when we approach the Lord we should guard our steps and “go near to listen” rather than being quick with our mouths and hasty in our hearts. By doing so we acknowledge that God is the Lord and we are those whom He has created (Ecclesiastes 5:1–2).
How do you approach God? If you sense that your attitude could use some adjustment, why not spend some time considering the majesty and greatness of the Lord? When we ponder His unending wisdom, power, and presence, we can feel awed by His overflowing love for us. With this posture of humility, we too need not have the last word.
The power and significance of our words is a repeated topic in Scripture. Following the admonitions of Proverbs and anticipating the words of Jesus and James (see Proverbs 10:13, 32; 12:16–17; 13:3; 16:1; Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45; James 3:3–12), the writer of Ecclesiastes warns about controlling our tongues.
Why do we need to watch what we say? Because our words are a recognition of who we are in relationship to God. When the writer warns, “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2), he is saying that humility is the proper attitude toward our words because we do not know everything. Being “quick with your mouth” (v. 2) may lead us to say things that are untrue and make plans based on wrong information.
How does knowing that God—the Creator of the universe—is in heaven and we are on earth help you to humbly choose your words?