It’s Saturday, which means that tomorrow is Sunday. And Sunday means that I’ll find myself sitting from 9:30 to about 11:00 in a church service. And sitting in a church service means that there will be a sermon. Allow me to summarize the sermon I’m likely to hear tomorrow morning.
Blab, blab, blab.
Whatever else Solomon knew in this book, in today’s passage, roughly halfway through the text, he finally comes up with something that I can really latch onto.
Whatever exists was given its name long ago, and it is known what mankind is. But he is not able to contend with the one stronger than he. For when there are many words, they increase futility. What is the advantage for mankind? For who knows what is good for anyone in life, in the few days of his futile life that he spends like a shadow? Who can tell anyone what will happen after him under the sun?Ecclesiastes 6:10-12
Bird is the Word
“Many words increase futility.” It’s all just talk. Or, as I suggested above, “Blab, blab, blab.” Tomorrow’s sermon will have it’s share of blab. “Turn in your Bibles to the book of blab. Remember that God wants you to blab. Jesus blab, blab, blab. The church blab, blab, blab.” Sometimes it seems that a sermon is about as coherent as the song “Surfin’ Bird” and not nearly as memorable.
Why would our writer, someone who deals in words, offer this critique of the value of words? In 30-plus years of teaching writing, I have had only a few students notice that when I trumpet the value of writing, I’m plugging my own livelihood. But I assure you that they’d notice right away if I stood up in class and said, “This is completely useless stuff, but we’re going to do it anyway.” There’s irony to the idea of somebody saying “Many words increase futility, and, by the way, I have six more chapters of words to share with you.”
All words, however, are not created equal. We’re reminded in Genesis 1 that God spoke creation into existence. John’s gospel leads off with the proclamation that “In the beginning was the Word,” who we learn is Jesus. That Word is powerful. That Word is essential, but human words are plentiful and generally a path to confusion or division.
Getting in Tune
So what’s a person with a tongue to do? Do we spew out words like a firehose, hoping that some of the drops will help to put out the fire, or do we keep silence while the inferno rages around us?
Just a couple of weeks ago, we read Ecclesiastes 5:2:
Do not be hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few
Psalm 46:10 warns us to “Be still and know that I am God.” I’d read that as saying that to hear what God says, we need to shut our own mouths and listen.
Tomorrow’s sermon will have its share of blab, but hopefully, if the preacher was well chosen and well prepared, it will contain some nuggets of God’s message.
I can’t hope to hear those if I’m too busy, either with my mouth or in my mind, blabbing myself.