“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1). This verse and the passage following offers us an excellent, Godly perspective on life and lets us know that everything has a purpose.
Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” As Christians, we are called to spread God’s word and teach His word to others (Mat. 28:19-20). We know there are many who are lost and need to hear God’s word, but what we must learn is that the timing for what we say is important. Becoming a Christian is a process, and it takes longer for some people to fully understand it. We are called to plant the seed, and let God give the growth (1 Cor. 3:6-11).
So what does that mean? It means maybe we start out by asking someone if they’d like to come to church with us or if they’re interested in having a Bible study sometime and going from there. Maybe it’s even as simple as some Christian friends getting together and asking a non-Christian to hang out too. When we understand that there are times when we should be silent, and other times when we should speak, it gives us direction when witnessing to others. It lets us know that we should start out small and plant the seed, then direct a person to God’s word and let Him give the growth.
This doesn’t mean that talking to someone about God one time is going to make a difference in their life, even though it sometimes does. We need to follow up and keep trying to help in a loving way and always let God’s word speak for itself because “every word of God proves true” (Prov. 30:5).
We must also know when to keep silent and when to speak when we notice a fellow Christian is struggling with something. We are called to teach each other but also to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thes. 5:11). We should be loving when dealing with problems with a brother or sister, just like we’d be loving to a non-Christian. We should understand that “better is open rebuke than hidden love” (Prov. 27:5) but also that we should first deal with our problems before we rebuke a brother or sister (Luke 6:41-42).
Sometimes we may either witness or get into a religious argument where people have views that are different to ours or to the word of God. This is another instance where we must know when to speak and when to keep silent. So how do you know?
First, ask yourself if the argument is worthwhile. If you respond or offer a counter argument, is there a chance to change the person’s beliefs or are you simply wanting to argue? Second, do you have enough time to make your point? If you don’t, or if the other person doesn’t have enough time to listen, maybe it’s better to make arrangements to talk about it at a later time, perhaps over a Bible study. Lastly, do you have evidence to back up your claims? If you aren’t prepared to tell or show someone where the scripture is located and why you believe your argument, it may be best to wait until you have a Bible handy and can point it out to someone. It would be a good idea to keep a Bible on hand in situations like these. Whether you have a Bible with you or not, this would be a great opportunity to ask the other person if they’d like to study with you.
Even though there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak,” we should always be ready to give an account of God’s word and the gospel. Paul tells us in2 Timothy 4:2 to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching.”
He also instructs us in Colossians 4:5-6 to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” This verse best explains to us how we can know when to be silent and when to speak. We must walk in wisdom (by knowing God’s word and acting on it) and speak kind truth (from God’s word). When we study and know what the bible says, Paul tells us that we will know how to answer people and when to keep silence and when to speak.