There is an old adage which says, "Silence is golden." But is it always so? I recently ran across this statement: "Silence is not always golden --sometimes it is just plain yellow!" That really struck me as worthy of further thought.
Certainly "silence is golden" at times. There are times when silence pays rich dividends. Solomon said: "The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin". (Pro. 13:3). Surely the kind of silence here advised, the control of one's tongue, is "golden" indeed. Peter tells us: "Let him who means to love life and see good days refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile." (1Pet. 3:10). Silence is certainly "golden" when compared to speaking evil. How wonderfully "golden" the "silence" would be if all whispering, gossip, backbiting, lying, slander and such like could be forever stopped. Perhaps all of us need to give more attention to our speech.
"Silence is golden" also when one is restrained and careful in her speech. There are times when one can say more by being silent. Too many times we may be guilty of saying too much. The multiplicity of words is much in evidence today. No doubt Solomon had reference to such when he wrote: "He who restrains his words has knowledge... [and] even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is counted prudent." (Prov. 17:27-28). It must be agreed that there are times when "silence is golden".
There are other times, however, when silence is not "golden". It may be just plain "yellow" or cowardly in such instances! To remain silent at times when one should speak up is to be guilty of cowardice and results in a failure to do one's duty. It all depends upon the circumstances.
How many times in nearly every field of endeavor has it been true that silence could be traced to cowardice? Even in the service of the Lord this is too many times true. There are times when it is our obligation to speak up and tell the truth. Many times those who should speak out and warn of danger remain silent because they are afraid or fear that they might hurt someone's feelings. Such silence is far from being golden, "it is just plain yellow," and God will hold accountable those who are guilty.
It is the obligation of every Christian, whether a preacher, elder, or "just a member" to "preach the word ... reprove, rebuke and exhort" those who need teaching and correction. We must teach people the truth and condemn sin and error wherever it may be found. The sinner must be warned about the results and end of his wicked ways. Sometimes this is not a pleasant or easy task. At times it will result in trouble and bring opposition to the faithful teacher. No one can please God who remains silent when duty demands that he speak out! Silence is not "golden" in such cases. When sin is winked at, when error goes unchallenged, when dangerous doctrines and practices are not exposed for what they are, the "silence" of those who should speak out is nothing but cowardice. Yet many saints today are remaining silent when circumstances and conditions demand that they speak up.
Grave issues and problems face the saints of God today and the danger of division and digression is apparent in many quarters. One is ignorant of the facts or self-deceived who will deny this. The saints are in a state of confusion in many places and do not know what to expect in the future. Dangers threaten everywhere. The need of the hour is not for silence relative to these things, but for a faithful and plain declaration of God's will touching all areas of service to the Lord and the unity of the saints. There is no place for "fence straddlers," or the compromisers who "halt between two opinions". The saints need basic and clear teaching on their individual responsibility. Nobody can carry your load nor execute your obligations to the Lord and to His people. Individually we have an obligation to help, build up, and encourage one another. Any saint who fails to deal personally with the problems and issues before us is a coward. Moreover, such a person lends strength to the forces of evil, and by failing to oppose such can be counted with the enemies for all practical purposes. Jesus said: "he who is not with me is against me." We have to make a choice, either we are actively for Him or we are passively against Him.
Obadiah condemned some people in his day because they stood by and watched the enemies destroy some of their brethren. God's prophet accused them of "violence against thy brother Jacob". He told them that "shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off forever." Obadiah told them when and why they had done that for which they were condemned - "On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem - you too were as one of them." By failing to help their brethren in their plight, Obadiah says of them that they were even as one of the enemies. In the same way today we can be as "one of the enemies" of God's saints.
Are you concerned for the spiritual well-being of your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you willing to stand by them, lift them up when they fall, defend them against dangers? Do we really care enough about others to correct, encourage and sustain them in times of trouble and discouragement?
Dear brother and sister, what about your responsibility along this line? "Let him who is on the Lord's side say so" and prove it by his or her actions. Where do you stand? Are you hiding behind the cloak of silence, with the idea that "silence is golden"? No true servant of the Lord can remain silent when God's people are in danger from any quarter. He will, yea, he MUST "cry aloud and spare not" in the exposing of sin and error; and in the plain proclamation of the truth of God. It won't be popular with the masses, but it will help save those who have an honest and good heart; and who have the courage and dedication to faithfully serve the Lord come what may!
Paul, the apostle, could say, "I am pure from the blood of all men," because he was faithful to his trust of teaching people the truth from God and warning them of all error. He was no coward and never sought to please men in his preaching (Gal. I:6-10). He certainly did not think that "silence is golden" when the truth needed to be proclaimed in plain, bold language. He boldly condemned all error wherever and whenever he found it. We must do the same if we want the approval of our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that silence is not always golden, many times It is just plain yellow. - CAH