Bible Topics In The Christian Library
Chapter 9
Using Our Words

The mouth, the tongue, and the lips are all mechanisms of speech mentioned often by Solomon. They are parts of the body designed by the Lord to help us communicate our thoughts. However, words, in the broadest sense of meaning, take many forms; but whatever their form, they provide the medium through which information is transmitted.

Information is necessary for successful endeavor. In the book of Genesis we are told that the Lord spoke, and the various parts of the world came into being. How this happened no one knows. We do know that the creation of the various life forms in the world occurs by means of molecular "words" within the chromosomes of the cells in the body. Moreover, all of our activity, mental or physical, occurs through the transmission of electro-chemical "words" in the nerves; and it is by means of spoken and printed symbols that we gain knowledge and understanding, making us capable of constructive endeavor.

The Power of Language

Solomon said words have great power for both good and evil.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof (Proverbs 18:21; KJV).

a soft tongue breaks bones (Proverbs 25:15; JB).

James also wrote of their power. If we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Look at the ships also; though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things (James 3:3-5; RSV). If we have wisdom our words will help us; and with them we can help others. The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life (Proverbs 10:11; RSV).

In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found (Proverbs 10:13; KJV).

The tongue of the just is as choice silver (Proverbs 10:20; KJV).

The lips of the righteous feed many (Proverbs 10:21; KJV).

The speech of the upright saves them (Proverbs 12:6; NAB).

the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18; RSV).

the lips of the wise shall preserve them (Proverbs 14:3; ASV).

The tongue of the wise utters useful knowledge (Proverbs 15:2; ABPS).

the words of the pure are pleasant words (Proverbs 15:26; KJV).

The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips (Proverbs 16:23; KJV).

The words of a wise man's mouth win him favor (Ecclesiastes 10:12; RSV).

If we have enough wisdom, we can use them to understand even the inner thoughts of others. The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters (Proverbs 18:4; KJV).

The purpose of a man's mind is like deep waters, but a man of understanding will draw it out (Proverbs 20:5; RSV).

Words used skillfully bring rewards. Indeed some men are able to earn a living by them. A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth (Proverbs 12:14; KJV).

A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth (Proverbs 13:2; KSV).

A man may live by the fruit of his tongue, his lips may earn him a livelihood (Proverbs 18:20; NEB).

If a man is a fool, his words will hurt him because he will not know how to use their power. the mouth of the foolish hastens ruin (Proverbs 10:14; MLB).

The talk of a fool is a rod for his back (Proverbs 14:3; RSV).

A fool's lips bring strife, and his mouth invites a flogging. A fool's mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to himself (Proverbs 18:6, 7; RSV).

the lips of a fool consume him. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is wicked madness (Ecclesiastes 10:12, 13; RSV).

Words well spoken can be very beautiful, bringing joy and happiness. To make an apt answer is a joy to a man. And a word in season, how good it is (Proverbs 15:23; RSV).

pleasant words are pure (Proverbs 15:26; ASV).

He who gives a right answer kisses the lips (Proverbs 24:26; RSV).

Like apples of gold in settings of silver, so is a word spoken at the right moment. Like a gold ring on an ornament of gold, so is a wise reprover for a listening ear (Proverbs 25:11, 12; MLB).

Words well spoken are pleasant and gracious. They refresh the soul, increase persuasiveness, and make important men our friends. They are even good for our health. As every health professional knows, soft, gentle words have remarkable healing power. Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad (Proverbs 12:25; KJV).

A soft answer turneth away wrath (Proverbs 15:1; KJV).A gentle tongue is a tree of life (Proverbs 15:4; ASV).

The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones (Proverbs 15:30; RSV).

pleasant speech increases persuasiveness (Proverbs 16:21; RSV).

The mind of the wise makes his speech judicious, and adds persuasiveness to his lips (Proverbs 16:23; RSV).

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones (Proverbs 16:24; KJV).

He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend (Proverbs 22:11; RSV).

As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country (Proverbs 25:25; KJV).

Oil and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of a friend's counsel that comes from the heart (Proverbs 27:9; AMP).

But we all learn early in life that words can hurt. There are those whose speech is like the piercing of a sword (Proverbs 12:18; LAM).

A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse one crushes the spirit (Proverbs 15:4; NAB).

As one that taketh off a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon soda, so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart (Proverbs 25:20; ASV).

Harsh words arouse anger. (Although sometimes they may be necessary. See Luke 11:45-54 and Acts 7:51-54 for examples.) harsh words stir anger (Proverbs 15:1;AAT). Good words are true words, honest and faithful. They bring welcome relief, and they endure. He who speaks the truth gives honest evidence (Proverbs 12:17; RSV).

The truthful lip is established forever (Proverbs 12:19; RSV).

a trustworthy envoy is a healing remedy (Proverbs 13:17; NAB).

A faithful witness will not lie (Proverbs 14:5; KJV).

A true witness delivereth souls (Proverbs 14:2 5; KJV).

Righteous lips are the delight of kings; and they love him that speaketh right (Proverbs 16:13; KJV).

a truthful witness will speak on to the end (Proverbs 21:28; AAT).

Like the coolness of snow in the heat of the harvest is a faithful messenger for the one who sends him. He refreshes the soul of his master (Proverbs 25:13; NAB).

In sum: Words have great power for both good and evil. Good words enlighten, build up, encourage, comfort, and heal.
The Misuse of Language

Words, like all powerful things, should be used with caution and great care. They should be used the way a surgeon uses his scalpel. They should be treated like a live electric wire-something to be carefully guarded until needed. James warned about this, saying,

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire (James 3:5, 6; RSV). Solomon also gave many warnings about using our words carefully. In the multitude of words there wanteth not transgression; but he that refraineth his lips doeth wisely (Proverbs 10:19; ASV).

A prudent man concealeth knowledge (Proverbs 12:23; KJV).

He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction (Proverbs 13:3; KJV).

He that spareth his words hath knowledge: and he that is of a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: when he shutteth his lips, he is esteemed as prudent (Proverbs 17:27, 28; RV).

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him (Proverbs 18:13; KJV).

He who keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble (Proverbs 21:23; RSV).

Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him (Proverbs 29:20; KJV).

Be not rash with thy mouth a fool's voice is known by multitude of words (Ecclesiastes 5:2, 3; KJV).

The more words, the more vanity, and what is man the better? (Ecclesiastes 6:11; RSV).

It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity (Ecclesiastes 7:5, 6; KJV).

The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools (Ecclesiastes9:17; RSV).

A fool multiplies words (Ecclesiastes 10:14; RSV).

Solomon urged special care when making promises, whether to the Lord or to men. Both expect them to be kept, and we will suffer if we do not. My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger; if you are snared in the utterance of your lips, caught in the words of your mouth. Then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into your neighbor's power: go, hasten, and importune your neighbor. Give your eyes no sleep, and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler (Proverbs 6:1-5; RSV).

It is a danger to a man to say without thought, It is holy, and, after taking his oaths, to be questioning if it is necessary to keep them (Proverbs 20:25; BAS).

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God; for to draw nigh to hear is better than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they know not that they do evil (ASV). Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure: in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay (KJV). Let not your mouth bring you into sin, and say not before the messenger, "It was a mistake." Why should God be angered at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For through many empty dreams come many vows. But do you fear God! (AAT) (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7).

Although James warned about the lack of control of our speech, he also pointed out the difficulty involved. If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man's religion is vain (James 1:26; RSV).

For we all make many mistakes, and if anyone makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also (James 3:2; RSV).

One especially insidious overuse of words is the common practice of gossip. Remember, a gossip is not necessarily a liar; what he says may be perfectly true. But, like a peeping Tom, he exposes what should be kept concealed. What makes gossip appealing is that it is both entertaining and seemingly harmless. But it is a poison that creates conflict, and destroys friendships. Moreover, it can snap back and ruin a manís own reputation. Solomon told of its evils, saying, he that uttereth a slander, is a fool (Proverbs 10:18; KJV).

A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter (Proverbs 11:13; KJV).

a whisperer separateth chief friends (Proverbs 16:28; KJV).

He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends (Proverbs 17:9; KJV).

The words of a whisperer are as dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts (Proverbs 18:8; 26:22; ASV).

disclose not the secret of another; lest he that heareth it revile thee, and thine infamy turn not away (Proverbs 25:9, 10; ASV).

For lack of wood the fire goeth out; and where there is no whisperer, contention ceaseth (Proverbs 26:20; ASV).

And Agur said, Slander not a servant unto his master, lest he curse thee, and thou be held guilty (Proverbs 30:10; ASV). It is best to neither practice gossip nor listen to it. Solomon said only fools indulge themselves in it. He who goes about gossiping reveals secrets: therefore do not associate with one who speaks foolishly (Proverbs 20:19; RSV).

As the north wind holds back the rain, so an angry glance holds back a slander (Proverbs 25:23; NEB).

Words are often used to deceive. One insidious example is flattery. It, too, appears innocuous. But in fact, flattery is a device used to disarm the defenses of a victim in order to take advantage of him. Flattering lips with a wicked heart, are like a potsherd overlaid with silver dress (Proverbs 26:23; SPRL).

A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin (Proverbs 26:28; KJV).

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful (Proverbs 27:6; KJV).

A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet (Proverbs 29:5; KJV).

The liar and the false witness are an abomination to God because they promote injustice. Deceit is often used to conceal malice. It is perhaps the major weapon of the wicked, for both offense and defen

Copyright 1997 by Walter L. Porter may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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