Proverbs is a practical book, like James in the NT, and offers wisdom and warnings that relate to real life issues. Communication is vital in any relationship and proper speech or use of words can either make or break relationships. We’ve heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words cannot harm me.” Really?! Proverbs teaches us much about a boneless part of our body that wields immense power for good or evil and can create untold problems!
Proverbs 18: 4 compares words to “deep waters” which reveal what is really inside a person. For from within the well of one’s heart the mouth like a bucket draws and brings forth words (Mt. 12:34)! The “fool” (chasar-lev, baar, pethi) lacks common sense and is particularly known to use their mouth to scoffs wisdom! He hates discipline, “mouths off” hence simply stupid! Proverbs 18 can instruct us on how we can “Wise Up in our communication and not be stupid?
1. Let’s use Less words or better, say Nothing:
Have you ever thought why God gave us two ears and only one mouth? A lot of “little talk” sooner than later leads to ruin, for when words are many, transgression is not lacking (10:19). I admire quiet, good listeners who say very little but whenever they do say something, it is significant and worth listening. We liked the principle that “if you don’t have something good and useful to say, say nothing at all!” Silence can say much and can even make a fool seem wise! (17:28) I love the little poem I learnt but struggle to put into practice…
The wise old owl sat on an oak; the more he saw, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke the more he heard, why can’t we be like that wise old bird?Less words means gaining more wisdom and staying out of trouble (21:23).
2. Let’s use the Right words, at the Right Time:
Improper or wrong words invite trouble and call for stripes or a beating (18:6-8) A “whisperer” brings up matters that should not be said and like “dainty morsels” are easily accepted by other fools and readily swallowed! (6-8) Gossip and rumors start and spread in this way! Timing is everything, often we cut in before the other person finishes speaking and give our answer before we’ve heard the whole sentence or listened carefully to both sides of the story.
If your lips you’ll keep from slips five things take note with care,
Of whom you speak, to whom you speak, when, why and where!
The tongue of the foolish talker leads down perverse paths that soon destroy them! Think about other forms of loose talk that hurt other people and ruin your own soul: words that express bitterness, criticism, coarse jokes, being a ‘busy body’ in other people’s affairs, slanderer, backbiting,.. with God’s help, change!
3. Let’s Wise Up using Good and, Godly words:
Have you ever said something you wish you could catch and put back into your mouth? The words of a wise person are like a “gushing brook” that refreshes and blesses those around! (v.4) Let’s take Jesus’ words seriously: “On the day of judgment people will give an account for every careless word they speak for by your words you will be justified or condemned!” (Mt. 12:36-37) My tongue has in its power death or life! So for a ‘tongue check’ we must look regularly and carefully into the mirror of God’s Word (James 1:21-23; Study 3:1-12). Exam Questions: Do I talk too much? Take up the offence of others? Give my opinion without hearing people out? Speak only when spoken to? Known as a ‘gossip’?!
So, what do wise words look like?.. – Jesus! – The Living Word of God, the Source of all Wisdom and the Fount of every Blessing! Let’s wise up by resolving to imitate Jesus Christ in our communication. He came sharing the Good News! Christ was holy therefore speak nothing corrupt, he was gracious so may our words be kind, he always edified all who heard Him so let our speech always build up others (Eph. 4:29; Col. 4:6) Remember more people have been slain by ill-spoken words than by the sword. Watch your mouth, lest it bite you!!