Should I Say Something?
I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.” So I remained utterly silent, not even saying anything good. But my anguish increased; my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue… – Psalm 39:1-3 (NIV)
This psalm has a great cliffhanger. Some wrongdoer is rubbing it in everyone’s face, and the question for the psalmist is: should I say something?
I am so often in the psalmist’s shoes. I remember a campground in August 2020, trying to fall asleep in my tent while a noisy crew one campsite over spouted loathsome, backward insults against everyone that wasn’t just like them. I remember scrolling my Facebook feed when a childhood friend’s post pulled me up short with a paranoid, venomous broadside.
I’m right there again, holding my tongue, muzzling my mouth while heat builds in my heart.
It makes me wonder—what is the psalm going to advise? Does scripture advise me to meekly stay silent, or should I let loose on those no-good so-and-sos? I am so tempted by both of these extremes—towards the sullen silence that avoids a fight, and the rigid indignation that comes from arguing how right I am. So what does the psalm say?
It tells us to … pray about it. The psalm advises not to bottle up anger, but also not to immediately unleash anger upon another. Instead, pour out that hot rage in prayer before God, holding nothing back. The One who is encircled by seraphim flame can surely withstand human anger. Pray about it, and only after praying, seek to discern whether to speak or stay silent.
God—Should I say something?
John Edgerton is Lead Pastor at First United Church of Oak Park, Illinois.