Friday, June 01, 2012


“The tongue that heals is a tree of life, but a devious tongue breaks the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4 HCSB)

Our mouth is small in relation to the rest of our body, but it is disproportionately large in terms of its power.  What comes out of our lips reveals what we are, and has an impact on what we become.  The words we speak have the ability to birth hope or bring harm.

To the Hebrew mind, words were fearfully alive.  Once they were spoken, they could not be retracted and went to work to accomplish their mission.  Remember when old, blind Isaac was deceived by his son Jacob? Isaac spoke the blessing upon Jacob which was intended for Esau.  Once those words were uttered, they could not be altered.  Though obtained under false pretenses, the blessing was Jacob’s.  Isaac could not recall it and Esau could not reclaim it.

Our mouth is big in terms of its potential.  Therefore, we would expect to receive practical words from the wisdom of Proverbs concerning our speech.  Indeed, it is one of the recurrent themes of this book.  In each chapter of today’s study, we have instruction about our big mouth.


“A wise son [responds to his] father's discipline, but a mocker doesn't listen to rebuke.” (Prov.13:1)

Parents have a God-given responsibility to instruct their children.  The direction often has to be reinforced by discipline.  The wise youth learns to respond with, “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am.”  But, the one who is a mocker at heart, has a mouth too busy making excuses, offering rationalization, blaming others or the circumstances, arguing about it—“back-talking” as we refer to it.  If that isn’t nipped in the bud early on, this will become a set pattern throughout life, and they will become a mocker all their days.  A mocker doesn't love one who corrects him; he will not consult the wise.” (15:12)

It is the arrogant soul that inspires argumentative speech, “Arrogance leads to nothing but strife, but wisdom is gained by those who take advice.” (13:10)  This spirit and its accompanying speech are ruinous, while those who hear and heed instruction experience reward, “The one who has contempt for instruction will pay the penalty, but the one who respects a command will be rewarded.” (13:13)  One who listens to life-giving rebukes will be at home among the wise.  Anyone who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever listens to correction acquires good sense.” (15:31-32)


“From the words of his mouth, a man will enjoy good things, but treacherous people have an appetite for violence.” (Prov.13:2)

Wise words, beneficial talk, good communication skills—all these are important if one wishes to be successful in life.  It isn’t so much the volume of what is said—in terms of how loud we speak or how long we speak—but, it is the value of what we say, when we speak, that earns favor.  There are, in fact, people who enjoy wealth and fame solely because they are good with words—writers whose words are published as best-sellers—their books flying off the bookshelves as soon as printed, and the income winging its way back to the author! 

I usually have several books I am reading at one time.  One of those is the massive work by Winston Churchill—his “Memoirs of the Second World War.”  It is no exaggeration to say that Churchill’s words in that era were essential to rallying the Allies to end the Nazi scourge, and keep freedom’s flame burning.  In contrast to that, we also had a book written in that era called, “Mein Kampf” written by Adolph Hitler.  It contains the twisted thoughts and treacherous tongue of the diabolical dictator, which unleashed violence on the planet—immense suffering, carnage and death.  Leaders, because of the potential of their impact, are particularly accountable for their words, “God's verdict is on the lips of a king; his mouth should not give an unfair judgment.” (16:10)  Such is the power of the tongue. 

Our speech is so important, that God will ultimately judge us for our words.  Jesus said, “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt.12:36-37)  Solomon put it this way,The Lord detests the plans of an evil man, but pleasant words are pure.” (15:26)  What we say is being recorded in heaven!  To God, those expressions are delightful or detestable!


“The one who guards his mouth protects his life; the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin.” (Prov.13:3)

The more we talk, the more likely we are to say something hurtful.  Not only may it harm someone else, but it can adversely affect us.  The wise man or woman realizes the gravity of their speech, and so is sparing with it.  They know they have a wild beast—the tongue—pacing inside, behind the bars of their teeth, and if not careful it will escape and pounce on someone.  Just as the right word spoken at the right time can bring us success, the wrong word uttered at the wrong time can lead us to ruin.

Have you ever been around a person who was a “Know-it-all?”  That prideful spirit is communicated in their plentiful speech. “The proud speech of a fool [brings] a rod [of discipline], but the lips of the wise protect them.” (14:3)  Someone said it well, when they warned, “Better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt!”

Steer clear of such people.  Stay away from a foolish man; you will gain no knowledge from his speech.” (14:7)  How would others classify you and me?   The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive, but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness.” (15:2)

God has given us two ears and only one mouth.  What does that mean?  The mind of the righteous person thinks before answering, but the mouth of the wicked blurts out evil things.” (15:28)  You cannot teach the un-teachable.  Those who always talk and never listen, never learn.  Conversely, “Anyone with a wise heart is called discerning, and pleasant speech increases learning.”  There is a way to respond and reflect on what another says that will open the door for more conversation, and the wisdom that is acquired from it.


“A wise man's instruction is a fountain of life, turning people away from the snares of death.” (Prov.13:14)

Certainly our mouth is big in its potential to harm and so we should speak in a guarded mode.  But, it is also large in its possibility to help and so when we do speak, it can be in a grace-filled manner.  There is a time when silence is golden, but there is also a time when our words are of immense worth—and demand to be declared.  A man takes joy in giving an answer; and a timely word--how good that is!” (15:23)

There is no greater example than in the power of Gospel witness.  Those words hold the power to break the shackles of sin and turn a soul from hell—bringing life, eternal life to the one who receives them.  Yes, there is a time when silence is golden, but also a time when it is just plain, “yellow.”  We allow fear to paralyze our vocal chords.  How can people be saved, if we don’t share?

We must deliver the truth.  The lips of the wise broadcast knowledge, but not so the heart of fools.” (15:7)  There are certainly plenty of false prophets gone out into the world, dispensing their sweet-tasting poison. “A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy courier [brings] healing.” (13:17)  Tragic enough, that those who are wicked messengers have swallowed this toxic drink themselves, but worse, they share the Kool-Aid with others.  There is an antidote, however—the truth of the Word of God.  Dispense it!  The tongue that heals is a tree of life, but a devious tongue breaks the spirit.” (15:4)  Bright eyes cheer the heart; good news strengthens the bones.” (15:30)


“An honest witness does not deceive, but a dishonest witness utters lies.” (Prov.14:5)

We have already alluded to the fact that what a person says discloses who a person is.  Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, Jesus said.  Some might argue, but what if a person lies?  Doesn’t that hide what is in their heart?  No, it reveals what they are—a deceiver.

Integrity is when my thoughts and my tongue are in harmony with each other.  That is transparency.  Duplicity is when what I say and what I know are discordant.  That is hypocrisy.  Some try to trim the truth around the edges—so it fits what they think others want to hear.  It may not be all the truth, but what little they say is true.  Just remember that a half-truth is a whole lie. 

There are times when to say something that is true may be unspoken because it can only wound another.  But, there are occasions when we need to speak—and though it might be painful for all involved at the time, it ends in blessing to the speaker and the hearer in the long term.  Wisdom directs.  Honesty is the best policy. “A truthful witness rescues lives, but one who utters lies is deceitful.” (14:25)

I’m sure you recall the fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”  The monarch was duped into believing he was wearing such glorious garments—when he was really naked.  All his advisors, confirm this to him—in their pride, none want to admit that they can’t see this incredible clothing.  So, out goes the emperor, naked as the day he was born, and it remained for an guileless child to say, “He’s naked!”  How embarrassing!  It would have been far better for someone to have spoken up earlier. “Righteous lips are a king's delight, and he loves one who speaks honestly.” (16:13)


“There is profit in all hard work, but endless talk leads only to poverty.” (Prov.14:23)

Blowhards with big plans—ever heard them?  They can always tell you what they are going to do, but they never get around to doing it.  They are talking in their sleep—it is all a dream.  Such need to wake up and go to work!  People like this can always tell you what you ought to do—how you should get in on their, “get rich quick scheme.”  Many are in poverty today because they listened to such smooth-talkers. The promises dissipated into the thin air since they were all merely hot air.

Intelligent communication is important for business success, but it requires more.  It must be paired with industrious conduct!  The salesman who just talks endlessly can be charming, but he generates no profit for the company.  In fact, he is a drain on the resources. The salesman who backs up his words with his work is the kind of employee who excels.


A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1)

For years now, I have shared with potential deacons in our interview process this illustration I first heard from leadership expert, John Maxwell:

“As a deacon, you carry a bucket of water in one hand and gasoline in the other.  You will come upon those in the church who are ‘hot under the collar’ about something.  They are trying to start a fire.  In that moment, you have a decision to make.  You can pour water on the fire and put it out, or you can add gasoline—and it may burn down the church!”

Though the response of the deacon may be magnified because of their position, it is true for all of us—our words can soothe strife or stir it!  A hot-tempered man stirs up conflict, but a man slow to anger calms strife.” (15:18)  A worthless man digs up evil,
and his speech is like a scorching fire.  A contrary man spreads conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” (16:27-28)  It is a fire from the pit of hell!
When someone gets in our face, our natural reaction is to respond in kind.  If they are loud, we get louder.  It escalates—and none are better for it.  Thankfully, we don’t have to follow the natural reaction, for we have supernatural resources—if we have been born again!  The Holy Spirit indwells us.  His oil can be poured into a wound—a healing balm.  That is a gentle answer—and the fruit of the Spirit is “gentleness” and “self-control” (Gal.5:23).  Such is preferable to pouring salt in a wound!  One thing to remember before we answer—also a Maxwell maxim—“hurting people hurt people.”  The anger someone expresses is not the problem.  It is a symptom of the problem.  They have been hurt by someone.  What they need is someone to care, someone to listen—and our response can do that. “Pleasant words are a honeycomb: sweet to the taste and health to the body.” (16:24).  You can attract a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar! 


“The reflections of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” (Prov.16:1)

I first heard our former Associate Pastor, Terry Hollifield, say, “Opinions are like arm-pits—everybody has them, and some of them stink!”  I don’t know that he originated that word of wisdom, but he sure engraved it on my mind.  Everywhere we turn, people are talking.  We are overwhelmed by the plethora of opinions.  That doesn’t mean some are not worthy of consideration, but we must recognize that they are highly subjective.  There is a lot of stinking thinking that emerges as verbal halitosis!

On the other hand, when our minds are informed by the Word of God, we have objective truth.  When the Scripture speaks, God speaks!  There is authority and clarity.  The more we hear the Word, the more faith is fed (see Rom.10:17).  If you want to bless people and build them up, then speak that which God has promised will deliver such results, “so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it [to do]." (Isaiah 55:11)

My prayer is that you will receive my words today, not as speculation, but as God’s message for you.  It isn’t to be debated—it is to be done.  Paul expressed it this way, “This is why we constantly thank God, because when you received the message about God that you heard from us, you welcomed it not as a human message, but as it truly is, the message of God, which also works effectively in you believers.” (1 Thess.2:13)  I have invested hours in carefully preparing this message—because I know I will answer to God for its content.  You will answer for what you do with it.  Words have such weight!

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