“He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction” (Proverbs 13:3).
In certain sports athletes wear a mouth guard which is designed to protect the teeth and gums to prevent and reduce injury to the teeth, arches, lips and gums. Unfortunately, there is no device that we can wear that can prevent the injuries we can do with the words that come out of our mouths. Proverbs is filled with wisdom regarding how we use our tongues.
God warns us about the destructive nature of our many of our words: “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). Like a sword unsheathed, our words can hurt others: “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health” (Proverbs 12:18). Not only can we commit sin, but we can provoke others to sin with the words we use: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). We can also show our own foolishness by the words which come out of our mouths: “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims foolishness” (Proverbs 12:23). Solomon adds, “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back” (Proverbs 29:11). Because of the destructive nature of our words and what they say about the state of our hearts, we need to consider what we say. Much damage can result if we put no restraints on the words we use!
However, Solomon also writes that our words can accomplish good. The tongue has the potential to be a “tree of life”: “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4). With our words we can encourage others: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). There is both “death” and “life” in the power of our tongues (Proverbs 18:21). The key is to have the wisdom to know how to properly use it.
What wisdom can we glean from Proverbs that will help us to make better use of our speech? First, we must guard what we say: “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23). Figuratively, we need to picture having a guard that stands outside our mouths guarding what comes out! Second, we need to work on being swifter to hear and slower to speak (James 1:19). We need to listen intently trying to understand the other person’s point of view: “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart” (Proverbs 18:2). Solomon adds how we need to hear the other person completely out, before giving our answer: “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13). Finally, when we do speak, we need to give thought regarding the words we use and how we say them: “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil” (Proverbs 15:28).
I am greatly humbled as I read the wisdom found in Proverbs regarding the use of my tongue. This is an area in which I need to grow. While the task is daunting, I am grateful that God gives me guidance on how to use the words which come out of my mouth. Today, I will strive to guard my mouth and use my words in a way which glorifies God and edifies others!
“Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus, no spring yields both salt water and fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom (James 3:10-13)”.