Ecclesiastes 7:21-22: Hearing and Speaking
The Preacher is uncanny in his knack to speaking to the heart of matters, and speaking to the matter of taking to the heart is no different. He encourages his readers not to take to hear everything that people say. He supposes that first one might hear a one’s servant cursing. The one “hearing” is reading into a statement or matter something that is not there. Second, as a matter of introspection, one’s hear knows how many times it has cursed someone else. The issue he is raising is that others have probably ignored curses and one would be wise to do so as well. James in his book of wisdom talks about words being spoken by the tongue (the part of the body associated with speech) to a great extent. James talks about the power of the tongue comparing to the rudder of a ship that steers the ship in a particular direction or like a bit in the mouth of a horse that directs the beast in a particular direction. He says it is like a fire that can set a forest ablaze (James 3:1-12). The sort of power that tongue has is huge, and this power can be destructive or it can be a blessing. James says that the tongue can utterly corrupt the one wielding the words.
But the power of tongue, however, is largely contingent upon the one hearing what is spoken. The forest that is being set on fire has to be dry and ready to burst into flames. Such fires can be defused by not taking matters to heart, as the Preacher suggests. Paul in Colossians 4:5-6 encourages his readers to be wise in the manner they deal with outsiders and to let their conversation be seasoned with grace. In doing so, there can be no question whether or not one is speaking in a manner that would give someone reason to read into a matter. And at the same time, Christian can heed the wisdom of the Preacher by not taking to heart what is spoken in curses. This way there are no assumptions made or prejudgments passed.
Lord, season my speech with grace and help me not take everything I hear to heart!