Prov. 18:21; Matt. 12:36-37
Now we get to one of Solomon’s favorite subjects, namely the tongue. The reason I believe it was important to him? He refers to speech almost 150 times in the book of Proverbs using various imagery: the tongue, the lips, the mouth, etc. I think that 18:21 is really the key verse on this topic, since it really hammers home just how important this is: It has the power of life and death. The Lord Jesus also had some pretty scary things to say about this as well: “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."
Before we get into specifics, however, let’s see just how constructive and destructive our tongue can get.
• 25:11—The right word at the right time is extremely valuable. Notice, by the way, the relative value of the speaker and the spoken word (silver is less valuable than gold). When speaking God’s truth to someone who needs it, we need to remember that the messenger is not as important as the message.
• 16:24—Honey was obviously the sweetest food in ancient Israel, and it made just about everything taste much better. And a “gracious" word of encouragement is not just “sweet to the soul” but “healing to the bones.” It can be used by God to heal a broken person.
• 12:18—How many of us have discovered the hard way just how “piercing” a reckless word can be? But once again we see that a word from the storehouse of God’s wisdom can bring healing.
• 15:1—Another proverb the truth of which we can testify. How many times have you seen a quick “escalation” when two people disagree? As soon as one person raises his voice, the other one does as well, and it quickly degenerates into a shouting match. But when you lower your voice, I’ve found that it tends to calm the other person down and lowers the “temperature” of the conversation.
• 15:4—Notice the contrast here (remember our examination of parallelism?) between a tongue that brings healing and one that’s "perverse." The Hebrew seems to indicate perversity in the sense of "deceitfulness" (hence the way the NLT renders it).
• 12:25—How many “anxious hearts” do you encounter on a daily basis? People who feel like the burdens they’re carrying are too much to bear? How many people would find their entire day lightened by one kind word?
Are you starting to see how important it is to keep that little organ under control? It’s soooo powerful, both for good and for ill. It can lead someone closer to God or away from him. It can bring healing to a soul or pierce like a sword. It can be the difference between two people finding mutual understanding and two people caught in endless conflict. It can build or destroy the trust that’s been built. I know we learned it as kids, but I think it’s one of the biggest lies we’ve ever heard: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Yeah, right.
Father, how many careless or reckless words have I let loose today? Please use my mouth as your instrument of grace, truth, mercy, and righteousness.