The ABC’s of Wisdom: Building Character with Solomon - The Tongue
Life and Death Are in Your Mouth!
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs has a lot to say about what we say. In fact, the subject of the tongue and how we use our words is one of the major themes of this book. Over 150 times Proverbs refers to our lips, our mouth, and our tongue.
Words are important. After all, God created the universe with words. He spoke and it was so. Our Lord Jesus was called the Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1, 14).
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Whether you know it or not, there is the power of life and there is the power of death within you. Everything you have said this week has either been life-giving or death-dealing, and there is nothing in between. The tongue has the power to kill, destroy, hurt, maim, and assassinate.
I read of a study released recently that states it takes eight to ten positive comments to offset one negative comment. In other words, eight to ten loving, caring, kind words are needed to eliminate the effects of just one hurtful word. Sometimes words that are spoken carelessly and viciously can never be erased from the blackboard of the mind.
The problem with words is that they can never be retrieved once they escape the mouth. The Bible describes the tongue as a world full of evil. From the tongue comes gossip, slander, hostility, cursing, and put-downs. We have all had times of regret or remorse when hurtful words have slipped out. Perhaps we spoke hastily to a co-worker, a neighbor, a classmate, a friend, a spouse, a parent, or a child. All of us have been eyewitnesses to the extreme damage the tongue can do.
One of my seminary professors often told us, “Men, it takes no size to criticize.” I often think about that when I am tempted to take cheap shots at other people. The world is filled with critics; where are the affirmers? On every hand we have self-appointed “truth-tellers” whose calling in life seems to be finding what’s wrong with everyone else. You know if you listen to them long enough they’ll soon begin sniping at others.
But there is a better way. Years ago I picked up a copy of the Rotary Four-Way Test. It consists of four questions to ask yourself when you are tempted to say something unkind.
- Is it the truth?
- Is it fair to all concerned?
- Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Pretty simple, isn’t it? What a difference it would make if we would apply those four questions to every conversation this week.
Think about it. Every time you open your mouth, life or death comes out.
Lord, let Your life be in me so that I may speak words of life to all I meet. Amen.
How have you been hurt by the words of others? How have you hurt others with your own words? Are you better at criticizing or affirming?
Take a moment and ask God to help you speak only words of life today.
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