Ancient Wisdom for Today: The Wise Person Watches His Words

Ancient Wisdom for Today: The Wise Person Watches His Words

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11).

Quarreling children on a playground sometimes say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That saying is not true. Relationships have been crushed and lives have been destroyed because of words. Even in America, where the law clearly declares one innocent until proven guilty, the mere accusation of a crime can ruin a life.

Scripture is full of admonition to be careful with our words. It is a recurrent theme in such books as Proverbs in the Old Testament and James in the New.

One of the best examples of a godly man who did not sin with his mouth was Job. At the end of his trials and the conclusion of the book of Job, God addresses the so-called friends who gave Job advice throughout his experiences. He was angry at them because they did not speak of Him what was right, as His servant Job had. Those friends were saved only through the prayers of Job, a righteous man before God.

Two of the Ten Commandments deal directly with speech. Isaiah’s vision convicted him that he and his people were guilty of unclean lips. Jesus said that what a man says comes out of the overflow of his heart. Paul advised the Ephesian church to refrain from unwholesome speech and only say those things that would build others up. James warned Christians to be slow to speak and slow to anger.

The contrasts between proper and improper speech are plentiful in the book of Proverbs.There are seven sets of these in chapter ten alone. For instance:

· When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is not wise (10:19)

· He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity (22:23).

· Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue (17:28)

These verses might lead those who are naturally quiet to think that being godly is easier because they don’t talk a lot. However, the Bible does not say that God is pleased only with silence. He wants us to use our tongues to witness (Romans 10:14), confess Jesus as Lord (Philippians 2:11), give God thanks (Colossians 3:17), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

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