One of my privileges as an American is the freedom of speech…relatively speaking. As I note in the article below, I am properly not free to say whatever I want to whomever I want in any context that I want. That would be chaos, not freedom. Similarly, the Lord puts some restrictions on our speech in order that we might be truly free to be in a joyful relationship with Him, centered on obedience to Him by faith in Him.
The following are some of Scripture’s passages on speech. Consider and discuss the principles and the article for this week.
- “With (Moses) I (the Lord) speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:8)
- “My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad indeed; my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right.” (Proverbs 23:15-16)
- ‘Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)
- “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2)
- “But when I (the Lord) speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ Whoever will listen let them listen, and whoever will refuse let them refuse; for they are a rebellious people.” (Ezekiel 3:27)
- “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)
- “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32)
Judge to Martin Shkreli: Keep your mouth shut
“Freedom to Speak”, by Chaplain Jeff Dillard (4 July 2017)
Ironically, I first heard of this warning on the 4th of July as I was surfing for celebrations of freedom. You might remember Shkreli for his 5,000% price increase of a drug for HIV patients. As Renae Merie of the Post reported, “All your client has to do is stop talking in the courthouse and around the perimeter of the courthouse,” a visibly frustrated U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto said. Shkreli has struggled to abide by his defense attorneys’ advice to keep quiet since being charged in late 2015 with misleading investors in two of his hedge funds and the biopharmaceutical company Retrophin, all of which he founded. He has taken to YouTube to live-stream his thoughts and was kicked off Twitter earlier this year for harassing a journalist. But for prosecutors and Matsumoto, the breaking point appears to have been a surprise visit Shkreli, 34, made last week to an overflow room in the courthouse filled with reporters. During the visit, Shkreli criticized the prosecution team from the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, mocking them as the “junior varsity” to the federal prosecutors in Manhattan. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2017/07/05/judge-to-martin-shkreli-keep-your-mouth-shut/?utm_term=.b8f371d48d8d). Freedom of speech can be tricky, but any good attorney or parent will sometimes strongly advise their people, “Don’t talk. Just listen.”
Most Americans realize that the First Amendment does not protect, much less encourage, unfettered freedom. For example, it is against the law to incite a riot, commit libel or slander toward another person, threaten government officials, etc. You could probably continue the list of prohibited speech.
More importantly, there are at least two positive reasons that we protect and promote free speech.
First, we believe that we have a right – even an obligation – to the process of exchanging ideas. We must to evaluate their truth and potential impact. Speech is a power tool: it can build or destroy. And, yes, there is a time to tear down. But Shkreli’s attorney is trying to keep him from tearing down his own defense. Since none of us speaks in a void, we, too, must pause to consider our words’ potential effects on others and ourselves. Before saying something we may regret, we can rehearse in our heads, write some key points and run them by a friend, and even use the notes when talking.
Second, we believe we have an obligation to the goal of democracy. We don’t silence dissenters. Rather, we silence our fear of ignorance or foolish pride, as if we’ve cornered the market on truth. For the same reason, wise parents listen to their child’s side; savvy supervisors know that to be respected when they speak, they must also respect subordinates when they speak. And even when they’re completely in the right, the best leaders sometimes advise themselves, “Don’t talk. Just listen.”
If you’d like to read other articles from this series on current events, you can click here.