learnin’ how to talk from Sirach (2)


“Converse with intelligent people, and talk constantly about the Law of the Most High.” (9.15)

“Don’t answer before you listen, and don’t interrupt someone who is speaking.” (11.8)

“Happy are those who haven’t slipped in their speech and who haven’t been stabbed with pain for their sins.” (14.1)

“Look! Doesn’t a word exceed a good gift? And both come from a person who is gracious.” (18.17)

“… those who are reticent to speak diminish wickedness.” (19.6)

“Don’t trust everything that is said. There are those who slip and it wasn’t intentional.” (19.15b-16a)

“A slip on the pavement is preferable to a slip of the tongue.” (20.18)

“A thief is preferable to someone who continuously lies, but both will inherit destruction.” (20.25)

“The character of liars is dishonorable; their shame is continuously with them.” (20.26)

“If those who understand hear a wise word; they will praise it and add to it.” (21.15)

“Fools say whatever is on their minds, but the wise remain mindful of what they say.” (21.26)

“Don’t grow accustomed to saying coarse things … to do so is to engage in sinful speech.” (23.13)

“A curse on slanderers and the deceitful, because they have destroyed many who are at peace.” (28.13)

“Happy are those protected from the tongue … The death it inflicts is a wicked death …” (28.19,21)

“Keep your word and be trustworthy in your dealings and you will find what you need every time.” (29.3)

“… the heart … poses four possibilities: good and evil, life and death, yet their ongoing master is the tongue.” (37.17-18)

“Tell of the greatness of his name, and give thanks when you praise him …” (39.15)

“… this is what you’ll say when you give thanks: All the works of the Lord are very good.” (39.16)

“… now, sing hymns with all your heart and voice, and bless the Lord’s name.” (39.35)

“A flute and a harp make sweet melodies, but better than both is a pleasant voice.” (40.21)

learnin’ how to talk from Sirach (1)


As a spiritual discipline during the month of February, I’m focusing on my habits of speech and use of words. The leverage for that exercise is a single verse each day from the book known as Sirach (aka: Ecclesiasticus).

If you enjoy the book of Proverbs, you’d enjoy the book of Sirach, a book in the Apocrypha. Sirach has a great deal to say about communication, listening, speech, and words and I’m harvesting some of what it says on that subject for myself.

Following are the nine verses I’ve locked in on thus far this month. Perhaps you’ll find this list helpful, too.

“Do not be a hypocrite before others; keep watch over your lips.” (1.29)

“Listen to the poor, and reply with peaceful and gentle speech.” (4.8)

“Don’t keep from speaking in a time of need, for wisdom will show itself in one’s speech …” (4.23)

“Listen carefully, and utter a patient reply.” (5.11)

“If you know what to say, answer your neighbor; but if not, put your hand over your mouth.” (5.12)

“Don’t get a reputation for being a slanderer, and don’t set traps for people with your speech.” (5.14)

“Pleasant speech gains more friends for itself.” (6.5)

“Don’t desire to tell a lie; continuing in a lie results in no good.” (7.13)

“Don’t fight with talkative people, adding fuel to their fire.” (8.3)

I plan to post the rest of this month’s texts on speech in two more posts later on this month.

fresh bread: the magnificent seven

Are any of you wise and understanding? Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom. However, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, then stop bragging and living in ways that deny the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above. Instead, it is from the earth, natural and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and everything that is evil. What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts. (James 3.13-18 CEB)

Most of us own two Bibles: the first we access with our hands and the second we carry around in our head. The former is complete, but used so only rarely. The latter is very limited, but is always instantly accessible.

Realizing we all have quite limited memory and tend to act mostly on the basis of our engagement with that with which we’re already most familiar, it would be wise to choose, and to choose carefully, the passages of Scripture that we will carry in our second Bible. That is, knowing that we cannot carry all of Scripture all of the time, we will carry well what we can knowing that what we feed our head can only lead to a more deliberate way of living for God.

And if this course of action would speak of living wisely, then how could we fail to include in our second Bible some of what Scripture has to say about wisdom itself? But what specific verses to include?

I would nominate this passage from James. Why? Because it candidly identifies and steers us away from our “natural” misconceptions of wisdom and clearly defines for us how “supernatural” wisdom is expressed. We tend to think of wisdom in two ways: it’s something that happens in our head and only a gifted few attain it; it is purely reasoned and rare. But God’s Spirit speaks differently. God longs to give every Christian wisdom and his wisdom is nothing if it isn’t lived; his wisdom is intended to be pervasive and practical.

Are any of you wise and understanding? Show that your actions are good with a humble lifestyle that comes from wisdom … the wisdom from above. (James 3.13,17a CEB)

What I need to carry around with me and see lived out through me is this heavenly wisdom and a portion of this passage magnificently speaks of the seven facets of this gem called “wisdom from above.”

“… the wisdom from above … is (1) pure, … (2) peaceful, (3) gentle, (4) obedient, (5) filled with mercy and good actions, (6) fair, and (7) genuine.” (James 3.17b)

Imagine yourself meditating on one of those seven words throughout the day on each of the seven days in a week for a month. Imagine bathing those thoughts in prayer for their expression in your actions. What sort of change might the Spirit of God work in you, inside and out? Imagine an entire church family with minds not only so fixed, but their actions governed by such. Imagine the possibilities and the creativity of the expression of such wisdom and the harvest God might cause to grow from the planting of such seeds. Would it not be be magnificent?

Let’s pray.

Father of all wisdom, through the wisdom of your Word I pray, daily open my heart and habits to the wisdom of your Spirit. And having gifted me with your Spirit’s wisdom, Father, may I always show it in all of my ways. Amen.