Week 100: Proverbs Part 9
Another key subject in Proverbs is the tongue. Chapter 6 records seven abominations to the Lord: snobbery, lies, murder, conspiracy, mischief, perjury and gossip. The tongue figures in four of those. So sins of speech are a major topic throughout the book, for what is in the heart comes out of the mouth.
Words are powerful
Words cut deep. They can be cruel, clumsy and careless. Selfesteem can be ruined by words – they can make it too high or too low. Even bodily health can be affected. Our beliefs and convictions are formed by words. A timely word can have an enormous effect.
Words can spread like a prairie fire, causing strife, discord and division. They may be subtle hints, suggestions and innuendoes. But good words can reach many people as their benefit spreads across communities.
Words have their limits
Words are no substitute for deeds. The tongue can’t alter facts. Brazen denial and the strongest excuses won’t stand.
Words can’t compel people to respond. Even the best teacher can’t change an apathetic pupil, and even the worst gossip won’t hurt the innocent. Only the malicious will pay any attention.
There are four categories of words that should be on our lips:
Honest words – the straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Few words – the less said, the better. Reticence to speak is a virtue.
Calm words – words should be spoken from a cool spirit. A hot temper is rarely of benefit.
Apt words – a word matched to the occasion, shaped for the benefit of the hearer or reader, can bring great joy.
Such speech needs time for reflection first. We need to know what we are talking about and to think through the implications before we speak.
Such speech also flows from a person’s character, for what a person says comes from what they are. A person’s words are worth what he or she is worth.
In the New Testament, James says that if anyone does not sin with his tongue, he is a perfect man.