I once did a study on the "taming of the tongue" - a task which has proven to be quite the challenge in my own life. Words just pop into my head, come quickly to my lips, and are spoken without much thought - sometimes with warning bells sounding loud and clean in my brain, but simply unheeded by my heart! If you have ever found yourself in a similar situation, you probably know how difficult this "task" of taming the tongue can be! Jesus told the religious leaders one day, "Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.” (Matthew 12:37 MSG) What he was really speaking about were the "careless" words we often speak - the words which come back to "haunt" us. So, I had to ask what Jesus could have meant by "careless" words - were these just he words which were spoken in an unthinking or unconcerned manner? It could be because they also include the words which have no value, they lack true or authentic concern, and they are definitely not "prepared" words - they are words which come without study or intent.
You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! (James 3:7-10 MSG)
Solomon spoke a lot about the tongue and the value of our speech as he penned the many Proverbs we have contained within the Book of Proverbs. Here are but a couple of "clues" he gives us into the examination of words:
- Proverbs 8:13 tells us God takes absolutely no pleasure in perverse words. These are words which often spoken which are contrary to the evidence - such as words of flattery for the sake of flattery. If the evidence tells us something doesn't look good on someone and we say it does, these are perverse words. I'd rather someone be truthful with me and tell me I just spent my money on something which really does nothing to enhance my beauty or compliment my figure! Another type of perverse words are those which just reflect a heart of stubbornness - they are just spoken with hardness and coldness of heart. These type of words demean, often without really intending to, but they do. So, if God takes no pleasure in these types of "perverse" words, we had better begin to ask for his assistance in aligning our words (in love) with what the evidence proves! If the evidence proves OUR hearts need a little work, then this is where we need him to begin - not with the other person, but with us!
- Proverbs 10:21 tells us the lips of the righteous "nourish" many, but the fool dies for lack of "judgment". Words have the potential to either promote the growth of another, giving the person support much like a trellis or stake provides support for the growth of a plant, or they can actually contribute to the death of whatever was growing in the first place. The fool has a problem with judgment - the ability to evaluate, to discern, or to make comparisons in a loving and "guarded" manner. So, he just blurts out what he thinks and doesn't consider the consequences. In fact, it says they are like "chatterboxes" - those who just talk to be talking. Know anyone like that? They almost seem to talk just to be heard. I have to ask - why is it they feel they must be "heard"? It usually stems from a problem much deeper in their heart. I am blessed with a good friend who doesn't have to fill every "void" in our time together with talk - we can just enjoy the beauty of being together, noshing on some good treats, and then sharing some of the more important stuff in life - things we need to "unburden" ourselves of and work through together. We actually help "nourish" each other - providing the necessary "support" to allow the other to grow.
- Proverbs 13:3 reminds us those who are careful about what they say protect their lives, but whoever speaks without thinking will be ruined - another word for "protect" is to "guard" and another word for speaking without thinking is to speak "rashly". To guard ones words, one takes precautions - pays watchful attention to what is said, and even to the undertone of the conversation. There is a protectiveness in these types of conversations - ensuring the very "tone" of the conversation isn't turning to the direction which will bring harm or encourage "rashly" spoken words. It is not a "resistance" to speak, but a well-thought-out communication plan. In other words, you think before you speak and you don't speak everything you think! When the words are rash, there has not been adequate "deliberation" over the words - these bring ruin (a falling down, collapse, or state of disrepair to relationship and reputation).
- Proverbs 15:1-2 enlighten us as to the best form of communication - words spoken with gentleness, forethought, and purposeful intent. Here's where we often drop the ball - not only in giving our words less thought than we should, but in the gentleness part. Sometimes our words are a little harsher than we'd like them to be - honesty sometimes cutting a deep path when it is spoken. I have had to be honest on many occasions when honesty was the hardest path to take - it took a whole lot of careful choice in the words I spoke, times when I had to pull back and not say what I immediately thought, and a whole lot of clarifying what another heard when I finally did speak. Maybe this is why we don't pay as close attention to our words as we should - it is a whole lot of work! We cannot lose sight of what Solomon also said in the 18th chapter, verses 20-21, when he reminds us words are the "fruit of our mouths" - they can satisfy the hungriest of hearts. It is in the selection of the "choicest of fruit" where the words are free to become the satisfying harvest which will fill the stomachs of those who hear them! Just sayin!