Proverbs 31:8

Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.

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Others depend on you, and it is your duty to defend and help them. This rule especially applies if you are in authority. If a poor or weak person is being hurt or threatened, it is your job to rescue him. Open your mouth to argue and fight for those who cannot speak or defend themselves – the poor and needy (Pr 31:9). You are your neighbor’s keeper!

King Lemuel’s mother gave him this inspired rule (Pr 31:1-2). She nobly desired he would be the best king possible. As a great mother, she taught him to use his throne to uphold justice and to deliver the oppressed. Rather than think royal authority gave him opportunity for personal gain, she taught him to use his privilege of power to help others.

Open thy mouth! The defense of any cause or person begins with words. If you hardly ever speak, or speak slowly, or avoid confrontation, then you need this warning more than others. If something wrong is happening, or if someone is being wronged, you must speak. Say something! Stop the harm or violence, and protect those counting on you.

Why do many remain silent when they could say something? They fear being opposed. They fear ridicule. They fear rocking the boat. They fear peer pressure. They fear making a mistake. They fear getting involved and not being able to easily get out. They feel their effort will not be appreciated. They lack confidence, commitment, or community.

Who are the dumb? They are those who cannot speak for themselves. Why do they not speak in their own defense? Their voice may be ignored because they are poor, lower class, young, the wrong race, the wrong sex, mentally handicapped, a child, lacking privilege, old and feebleminded, intimidated by the situation, or countless other reasons.

How are they appointed to destruction? Circumstances or enemies threaten them, and they will be hurt or destroyed, unless someone intervenes to save them. It is persons in danger of oppression. A reason God ordained authority in the world – husbands, fathers, masters, rulers, and pastors – is to defend the cause of just such poor and needy persons.

Consider some examples. Joseph spoke to Pharaoh for his whole family (Gen 47:1-12). Isaac gave the best blessing he could to Esau, in spite of what Jacob had done (Gen 27:38-40). Elkanah intervened to honor Hannah over his other wife (I Sam 1:1-8). Jonathan spoke to his father for David’s life (I Sam 19:1-7). Solomon intervened to protect a prostitute in a dispute for her child (I Kgs 3:16-28). Esther spoke to Ahasuerus for her people, and he in turn spoke for her against their enemies (Es 7:1-10; 8:1-14).

Consider some other examples. The Good Samaritan gave instructions to the innkeeper to take care of the wounded Jew (Luke 10:30-35). Paul used his weighty authority and reputation to assist Phebe (Rom 16:1-2), Onesimus (Philemon 1:8-21), and the young minister Timothy (I Cor 16:10-11). John promoted Demetrius (III John 1:12).

A king could intervene for those threatened by civil suits, tax cases, criminal proceedings, property disputes, and so forth. But there are everyday opportunities you can use to help and protect others. Consider a bullied child at school, a reticent employee at your firm, a neglected widow down the street, an abused child on the next block, a poor member in your church, a child picked on by siblings in your family, a waitress berated by a rude customer, an innocent colleague conspired against by others, and many other such cases.

Have you spoken up recently for anyone? Have you defended any poor and needy person? Do not say you have not seen anyone in need, for opportunities arise often, but it is man’s wicked nature to look the other way (Pr 29:7). The great God of heaven sees your choice to not get involved, and He will judge you for it (Pr 21:13; 24:11-12; 28:27).

Consider the high king of heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ. He did not open His mouth to defend Himself, when laying down His life for His people (Is 53:7; I Pet 2:23). But He did plead the cause of a Canaanite woman (Matt 15:21-28), children brought to Him (Matt 19:13-15), a sinful woman at Simon’s house (Luke 7:36-50), a woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11), and his own mother’s care while He was dying (John 19:25-27). Let His holy example direct your mouth to silence for yourself and a loud cry for others.