Have you ever asked someone to “keep a secret” and they responded with the phrase, “Mum’s the word”? Human nature being what it is, it’s hard to “keep” a secret, secret! Ben Franklin noted, “Three people may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” But I digress. According to Wikipedia, “mum” is an alteration of “momme,” which was used between 1350 and 1400 in middle English with very close to the same meaning as “be silent, do not reveal.” When we promise “mum’s the word,” we are assuring someone we will “zip our lips… hold our tongues … keep it under our hats … and not let the cat out of the bag!” But we live in a talky world. Like the people in ancient Athens we read about in Acts 17, many people today “spend their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing” (verse 21). The Bible tells us, “There is … a time to keep silence” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). If we make a promise to keep silent, we should “keep our word” – that is, zip our lips, hold our tongue, keep it under our hat, and not let the cat out of the bag! There are times when mum should absolutely be the word. Jesus requires of His disciples, “But let your ‘Yes’ be “Yes’, and your ‘No, ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). In other words, say what you mean, mean what you say. If you promise “Mum’s the word,” “put a sock in it,” zip your lip, hold your tongue, and let mum be the word!
But wait a minute. There is “another side of the coin.” The same verse of Scripture that says,”There is a time to keep silence” also says, “There is a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7)!! And in the New Testament we read that Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). That’s tantamount to saying, when it comes to the gospel don’t ever let mum be the word! God wants His church to tell the gospel to everybody everywhere in every time and place. In Acts 4:17ff the apostles were severely threatened for preaching Christ, and told by foes of gospel in Jerusalem “that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” I’m paraphrasing verse 19, but Peter and John responded, “If we stop preaching Jesus we would be listening to you more than to God. Mum will not be the word when it comes to preaching Christ.” And then (quoting them in verse 20), “For we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard.” In Acts 5:19-20, after the apostles had been imprisoned for disobeying the order to stop preaching Christ, an angel of the Lord showed up and “opened the prison doors, and brought them out, and said, ‘Go, stand in the temple, and speak to the people all the words of this life.’ ” So they did, even though it brought physical suffering on them. They inflexibly refused to stay mum about the gospel. Words from the apostle Paul challenge us to be out, loud, unashamed and unintimidated about sharing the good news of Jesus with others. In 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 he wrote, “… God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” None of “us” today is a part of the original “us” in these verses, for none of us are “ambassadors for Christ” in the precise and direct way Paul and the apostles were. And yet, in the words of Ruth Johnson Carruth’s stirring 1939 hymn, it is “Into our hands the gospel is given, in to our hands is given the light, Haste let us carry God’s precious message, guiding the erring back to the right.” The gospel is in every Christian’s hands. It is God’s sole soul-saving power to all who believe and obey it (Romans 1:16). It will save even the chief of sinners who comply with the gospel’s conditions of faith, repentance, and baptism into Christ (1 Timothy 1:15; Mark 16:15; Acts 2:38). Dear Christian friend, who do you know that is lost and headed for a Christ-less eternity? “Mum” must never be the word when we have opportunity to implore those yet outside of Christ to obey the gospel and be reconciled to God! Are you mum about the gospel? Just asking.