Cowardice and Calculations: Why We Don't Speak Up
We will all face moments of crisis where we must decide if we should speak hard truths in love or simply keep our mouths shut. Perhaps it is a Christian being interviewed on a local radio station. Maybe it is a pastor writing an article for a paper or preparing his sermon. Perhaps it is you on a normal Tuesday sitting across the table from someone you are discipling. The pressure and temptation not to speak truth is real.
What will keep us from speaking up? There are two common things: cowardice and calculations. To see what I mean look at Ezekiel’s call to speak to the people of Judah upon their exile because of their sin:
Ezekiel 2:3–7 (ESV)
3 And he said to me [Ezekiel], “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ 5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7 And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.
The Lord tells Ezekiel, “Don’t be afraid even if you might end up sitting on scorpions”. Speaking the truth in love can get us in trouble. Even the truth spoken gently, in context, and through tears can receive vehemence in return. But when it comes to speaking the truth of God we should not be afraid—we should not be cowards. We trust, rather, that God’s will is going to be done. We ought not be afraid of what we might lose or what pain we might feel. We should just look to be faithful to God. Ezekiel faced the potential of pain if he spoke up. We all might experience different pains if we speak up too. Perhaps it is the pain of losing friendship, the pain of feeling like you hurt someone else, or the pain of rejection.
But the Lord tells Ezekiel “Be no afraid”. Be not afraid of what?
- Of them (what they can do).
- Their words (twice in 2:6).
- Their looks. We all know how it feels to get those looks!
Don’t be afraid, however. How do we not be afraid? Well next, Ezekiel is asked to eat the scroll of the word of God which he says was in his mouth, “as sweet as honey”. Even the difficult messages of God are as sweet as honey in our mouth because they are of God. They are good and they are right. Give yourself to God’s word and you will be comforted and find courage there.
Also in this text we see the error of calculating the outcome. How often do we stop short of speaking the truth because we know how this is going to end. "I say this, then this surely to happen". But the Lord won’t let Ezekiel think that way. Think about the calculations in this verse that Ezekiel is facing.
- “They and their fathers have transgressed me against me to this day.” (2:3)
- They are impudent and stubborn” (2:4)
- Whether they hear or resume to hear” (2:4, 7)
Sound familiar? How often do we think things like that? “Oh, they’ve been doing that forever, they won’t change now.” “They are just stubborn people, they won’t listen.” “They aren’t gong to listen to me, so why waste my breathe?"
But God tells Ezekiel to quit calculating what he think might happen or not happen. He just sends him to go and speak. What will be the least result? “They will know that a prophet has been among them” (2:5). In other words, God just wants you to establish his witness and his message. That is the job of a prophet and every new testament church member—we are simply to say “thus saith the Lord.”
If we stop and calculate whether or not it is worth it to speak the truth in love, we’ll most often keep our mouths closed. But in God’s economy, just being faithful to speak the truth is faithfulness.
Maybe it is a spouse, a child, a fellow church member, or another family member that we will encounter. Either way, the moments of crisis will come. Will we speak the truth of God’s word in love and gentleness? We will if we avoid cowardice and calculations by trusting God.
For His Glory,