Let your words be few

January 8, 2020

There’s an interesting connection between the first part of Ecclesiastes 5 and the second part of chapter 5 and all of chapter 6. In these chapters, Solomon discusses the difference between talk and action. “Let your words be few” is a familiar phrase, but what does that mean? It is not a command to silence those who have a lot to say, although I have heard it preached that way. But the context of that passage is about social justice, particularly about the misuse of wealth and power.

The section begins with a reminder to be serious about approaching God. Too often people are flippant about their religion, which is a dangerous attitude. No one should be casual about the Holy One, especially when it comes to our responsibility with resources and the pursuit of justice and righteousness. Solomon wrote, “God is the one you must fear” (5:7). Immediately following, Solomon returns to the certainty of “oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness ” (5:8). When people are flippant toward God, they also become flippant with their words and their resources so that their words lose meaning (like a vapor) and they cannot enjoy their wealth.

I read a memoir about Dapper Dan, the Harlem fashion icon. He said over and over that he did not trust white people because he EXPECTED them to treat him poorly. He EXPECTED oppression and marginalization because, in his experience, white people talked a lot, but didn’t actually change anything. Solomon said, “Do not be amazed” at the oppression of the poor. Dapper Dan was amazed when people treated him RIGHT.
Dapper Dan’s story is just one of millions. At its core it is not about racism, but about the nature of humans when they consider power and wealth their measure of worth. The more powerful a person becomes, the more empty their words. Certainly we see this in modern politics!

Words without intention are nothing more than mists that burn off at the first sign of the sun. “The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man?” (6:11). If we truly want to pursue righteousness and justice, then we must put action to our words. If we are unwilling, we are better off keeping quiet

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