Learning the Wise Way With Words
Sunday, February 25, 2007 -
The writers of Proverbs constantly urge us to resist the temptation to think that because our words are invisible they are without consequence. Words have eternal impact, both on our own lives and also on the lives of those around us. Jesus re-emphasized this truth - Matthew 12:36-37 - “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,  for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." See also Proverbs 6:16-19 - “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,  a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil,  a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Significantly, three of the six things God hates are directly related to the words of our lips. Here are some basic things from Proverbs about the words we speak:
1) WORDS HAVE THE POWER TO EFFECT THE ACTUAL DESTINY OF THE ENTIRE LIFE - Proverbs 18:20-21 - “From the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.  Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” There is nothing neutral about the power of words. They deal in the extremes of death and life. The reason we sometimes miss this fact is the effects of our words don’t usually explode all at once. The consequences of speech grow gradually and silently, like fruit, the writer says. For an extended treatment of this see James 3:4-12.
2) WORDS HAVE THE POWER TO PENETRATE THE INNER REALM OF THE SOUL, ALTERING EMOTIONS AND ATTITUDES AND BELIEFS - Proverbs 12:18 - “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” See also Proverbs 12:25 - “Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
3) MY WORDS HAVE THE POWER TO SMUDGE THE REPUTATION AND SLANDER THE CHARACTER OF OTHERS - Proverbs 18:8 - “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” The bearer of gossip is rightly called a “whisperer.” He would never sign the things he says on paper. He works in the dark, where he can’t be caught or quoted. His sin essentially turns him into a coward.
4) WORDS HAVE THE POWER TO SHAPE THE BELIEFS AND CONVICTIONS OF OTHERS - Proverbs 10:21 - “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.”Wise words not only heal, they feed. This kind of truth-sharing is essential to edifying New Testament congregational life:
Colossians 3:16 - “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
5) THE EFFECTS OF OUR WORDS SPREAD AND MULTIPLY BEYOND THEIR MOMENT OF UTTERANCE AND CONTINUE TO HAVE RAMIFICATIONS FAR BEYOND OUR INITIAL EXPECTATIONS - Proverbs 16:27 - “A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.” The picture is of a fire that sweeps across a dry field. At one time it was only a small camp fire or cigarette butt. No one could have dreamed that carelessness could have turned it into such a monster. Such is the potential of our speech.
6) THE WAY OF WISE SPEECH AND THE MARKS OF WORDS AT THEIR VERY BEST
a) Words should always be honest - Proverbs 16:13 - “Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right.”
For an example of this see 1 Samuel 3:15-18 - “Samuel lay until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.  But Eli called Samuel and said, "Samuel, my son." And he said, "Here I am."  And Eli said, "What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you."  So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, "It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him."
b) Words should always be regulated - Proverbs 17:28 - “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”
c) Words should always be calm - Proverbs 17:27 - “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” See also Proverbs 15:1 - “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
d) Words should always be appropriate - Proverbs 15:23 - “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!”
For an example of this see 2 Samuel 12:1-7 - “And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, "There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had very many flocks and herds,  but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him.  Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him."  Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, "As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die,  and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity."  Nathan said to David, "You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul.”
7) HOW TO MAKE YOUR WORDS COUNT
a) Study before you speak - Proverbs 15:28 - “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”
b) Make your words a matter of daily prayer - Psalm 141:3 - “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”
c) Remember your words will never rise above the intake of your heart’s daily diet - Matthew 12:34-35 - “ You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”