Wisdom, The Principal Thing - Part 6: The Power of the Tongue (Wisdom in Our Words)
Well, we have been learning about the wisdom of God over the past several weeks and we have found out that this wisdom that descends from above is the principal thing. That means it is the “top, first and best” thing. Yes, even above some of those other virtues that we know are so vitally important to our lives. So, evidently, wisdom should be at the top of man’s desires.
And we’ve seen two reasons why wisdom should be the most prized virtue that we acquire in our lives: because, number one, the benefits that she yields in our lives, and, number two, because she teaches us how to live rightly. So, we’ve both defined wisdom and talked about her proceeds.
We then spent the next couple of weeks looking at the over-arching principle of wisdom – which is things that pertain to the spiritual, eternal realm. So, we talked about how the fear of the Lord is how wisdom begins in our lives and how this reverence and respect for the things of God is the very heart of wisdom. We talked about the utter foolishness of sin and how to overcome this seductresses’ temptations in order to walk in the wisdom of holiness. Both of these spiritual elements of wisdom look ahead into eternity and beyond the natural, carnal elements of this world. Yes, they live for what is not seen and for “spiritual investments” as opposed to a life of “spiritual debt.”
Then, last week, we talked about the important role that the Word of God plays in our lives. I made the statement that there is no wise person who is not a “Word person,” and we saw how this is obviously true by the myriad of instructions given to us in the Book of Proverbs to heed our Father’s instructions.
Yes, we went through all of these verses and learned how listening to the words of our parents is, naturally speaking, the first opportunity we should have to gain wisdom in our lives. But if we either did not have parents who poured wisdom into our lives or ignored the wise counsel they gave us, we can still become wise today by heeding the Words of our Heavenly Father.
That’s right- we need to take all these passages in Proverbs that begin with “My son,” and not read them as just Solomon’s words to his children. Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, we need to read these passages of Scripture as they are in truth, God speaking to you, His child, pleading with you to listen to Him.
But oh, how so many of God’s children fail to do this. They forget the Word of God and move on to the deeper, “spiritual” things. Yes, they turn away from His Word and put their attention on natural, carnal things that appeal to the senses. Saints, this is foolish! God’s Word should not be disesteemed or disrespected. We should place the utmost value on the Holy Scriptures - knowing that they are what are able to make us wise and to fully equip us for whatever God has called us to walk into.
But we did learn that, like the Book of Proverbs has much to say about correction, this is one very important attitude that we must hear God with - a spirit of meekness. But the truth is that many Christians are foolish in this respect in that they do not let God’s Word get in the way of what they believe. They only use the Word to read what they believe instead of believing what they read. Church, this should not be so! We need to be willing to be corrected, and if God’s Word says something that rubs us cross-wise, we receive it as it is in truth, the Word of our Wise Father.
Now since this week we are celebrating Father’s Day, let’s take a moment to thank our Heavenly Father for being the “best daddy” one could ever have and for giving us all this opportunity to acquire His wisdom through His wonderful Words. Amen?
So, since we covered “Wisdom in the Word” last week, it seems good to me and the Holy Spirit to look this week at the “Wisdom in our Words.” Amen?
THE POWER OF THE TONGUE
As you study the Book of Proverbs, you will find that there is a lot in this book of wisdom on our mouths, the tongue and the power of words. Yes, Proverbs has a lot to say about the words of the wise versus the words of the foolish, the words of the righteous versus the words of the wicked, etc. In fact, throughout the Bible, we have Scripture after Scripture that teaches us the importance and power of our tongue. So, that is why we are going to camp on the subject of our words - because evidently our mouth and tongue have much to do with walking in the wisdom of God. Amen?
So, let’s begin in Proverbs 18:20-21 because it is likely the most popular passage in Proverbs on the power of our tongue: Proverbs 18:20-21 says, “A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; From the produce of his lips he shall be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
First of all, notice that this verse specifically says that those who love it will eat of its fruit. Love what? Well, this could refer to the power that is in the tongue or the life that our tongue has the power to produce. Either way, embracing this truth that our words are powerful is an important part of seeing the fruit of it.
You see, some who have gotten a revelation on the power of words have gotten what I call “spiritually superstitious” regarding them. But it is not just the frivolous words that come up from time to time that hold the power; it is the words that we really mean and that come out of our hearts (i.e. love) that hold the power of life and death. It is those words that we “love” that we will eat the fruit of.
But the truth is, our tongues hold more power than most realize - the power to produce both life and death. No, not just life and not just death; our tongues hold the power to accomplish both.
I had the Lord correct me one time on this because when I first got the revelation of the power of our words, I only gravitated to the negative. It set in me a holy fear of not saying anything that I did not want to see in my life. I would avoid saying anything about how I felt in my body, what I was experiencing negatively in my life, etc. I knew that I did not want to say what I didn’t want to see. And while there is certainly truth to this, there was something I had not put into practice yet:
You see, although I knew that there was death in the power of the tongue, I had not put as much importance on the fact that there is also life in the power of the tongue. Therefore, I needed to adopt the principal of calling things that be not as though they were instead of just not calling things that be as though they were not. Both are truths that we need to learn, church - because words can be both extremely destructive and extremely constructive.
So, let’s begin to go through some proverbs and see the power that our tongue has. And since Proverbs 18:21 begins with the death that the tongue has the power to yield, I want us to begin by looking at it first (Not to mention, there is far more on the death our words can produce in this Book than there is on the life part).
THE ABOMINATION OF THE MOUTH
Let’s begin in Proverbs chapter 6: Proverbs 6:16-19 - These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.
Now this is a very sobering passage of Scripture in that it shows us seven things that the Lord said are “abominable” to Him. Now that is a strong word, church. These are not just things that He “dislikes” or are “displeasing” to Him. These are things that He “abhors.”
You see, when we think of things that would be “abominations” to God, we would think of “wicked” things such as idolatry, homosexuality, adultery, etc. But here in this passage, we see that three out of the four abominations that are mentioned revolve around things we say. For example, the very last “abomination” listed is sowing discord among the brethren. In other words, this describes the person who runs around the church speaking things that promote disunity (i.e. gossiping, slandering, etc.). But notice that Solomon chose to put lying in this list twice! Now that is something we should take heed of, saints! Lying is evidently big on God’s naughty list! In fact, Solomon reiterates this in Proverbs 12:22 by saying, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.”
Now we don’t talk too much about this in church because we assume everyone knows this. But why did the Apostle Paul have to write to the Church of Ephesus in Ephesians 4:25 to put away lying? It is because that even in a Spirit-filled, tongue-talking church, there will still be folks who are going around lying. But it should not be this way! Lying should be one of those things that we absolutely do not tolerate! Yes, we should have zero tolerance for lying, first in ourselves - meaning, we do not ever tolerate telling a lie ourselves. Why? Because we see how God evidently feels about it! It is an abomination to Him!
And do you know why He is so serious about lying? It is because He AM the Truth! He cannot lie! All of His promises are “Yes” and “Amen!” On the contrary, Satan is called the father of all lies. Therefore, for us to lie is to imitate, not our Heavenly Father, but the devil himself. It is a serious thing, saints!
Here are some other references to “lying” in the Book of Proverbs:
SPEAKING THE TRUTH
Now “lying” is not always done overtly or maliciously. Sometimes we fail to speak the truth by not being a person of our word. For example, didn’t Jesus warn us to simply let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no” (see Matthew 5:37)? This means that if you say you are going to do something, bless God, you are going to do it - even if it turns out to be inconvenient, even if a better opportunity comes along, etc. This is called “swearing to our own hurt” (see Psalm 15:4) - meaning that we do what we say we are going to do even if it hurts to do so.
For example, if I say, “I’ll be there at eight in the morning,” I shouldn’t show up at 8:30, right? How many of you are thankful that God is always on time, that He’s never late? What if you needed Him there to help at a certain time and He said, “Oh, I’ll be there by then” but what He meant was He wasn’t going to leave until then. Simply stated - be faithful! And part of being a faithful person is being a person of your word.
But do you know why most people fall short at doing what they say they are going to do? It is because of a lack of wisdom. That’s right - they commit to doing things without ever thinking about what they are committing to, whether or not they can actually do what they are saying they will do. For example, they say they will help with such and such, but they never thought that they had already committed to do something else, and it was going to really push them to do both. That’s where wisdom comes in - because we should think about things before we say, “Yes, we will do it.” And for some of us, we should simply know ourselves, knowing what our own tendencies are and making provision for that. Like for instance, if we tend to be late to things, start getting ready earlier than your tendency. This is wisdom.
Proverbs 6:2 says, that we “are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth.” This is why it is so important that we think before making commitments, saying what we are going to do. It is because if we live according to this standard of truth, we are obligating ourselves to keep our word.
Now we don’t need to become legalistic about these things and start being the Holy Ghost police every time someone doesn’t do what they say they are going to do. We all have fallen short of this. All I believe the Lord wants us to be cognizant of is that we need to be more aware of what we are committing to and then doing all that we should to be faithful to our words. Amen?
THE WICKED MOUTH
Well, the perverse, wicked and foolish mouth goes well beyond lying though. There are many other ways in which our tongue can be “wicked.” So, let’s look at some of them:
Proverbs 10:19 says, In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.
What these verses are saying is that the one who is always talking, is always sinning. But what does wisdom do? It restrains its lips. In other words, a wise person is “slow to speak” (Seems like that’s in the Bible somewhere😊).
You know, when people run their mouth all the time they are usually either:
Therefore, we can see how Proverbs 10:19 is true - because if this is what dominates the conversations of those who are extremely talkative, then sin is certainly “not lacking.”
We will get more into the pride aspect of this in future weeks but let me camp on this subject of gossip for a moment: You know the Bible has a lot of negative things about the “talebearer.” In fact, several of them are listed in Proverbs. Let’s look at a couple of them:
Proverbs 11:13 - A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.
Wouldn’t we all want to be considered someone with a “faithful spirit?” Well, this Scripture tells us that one with a faithful spirit is one who “conceals a matter.” In other words, they are not one who is quick to reveal secrets that people confided in them. If we want to be considered a faithful person, it begins with our tongue.
Just look at this from the opposite point of view: if you told someone that you were struggling in a particular area and confided that potentially embarrassing information to them, and then they went and told someone else, would you consider that “friend,” a faithful friend? Even if they told the other person under the guise of “prayer” (i.e. “Please pray for so and so, they are struggling with…”)? No, that would still be considered a betrayal to most of us.
Proverbs 18:6-8 says, A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calls for blows. (i.e. the mouth of a fool loves to enter into strife, and when he opens his mouth, he calls out for punishment) A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body. (Also, Proverbs 26:22)
Let’s look at a couple of other versions of Proverbs 18:8:
Have you ever noticed how our flesh just loves to both be the bearer of gossip, and also a hearer of it? It is, like this verse says, like the tastiest of foods - like your favorite sweet. But the truth is - gossip is even more deadly than your favorite dessert. It has killed more people than sugar!
But the fact is - in many words, sin is likely present. Let’s look at another verse:
Proverbs 14:33 echoes this truth. It says, Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, but what is in the heart of fools is made known. In other words, the fool’s heart will always be revealed. By what? By what comes out of his or her mouth. In other words, a characteristic of an unwise person is they verbally divulge everything that is in their heart. Evidently, wisdom doesn’t say everything that it knows and operates in both humility and self-control.
Proverbs 17:27-28 says, He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. A “calm spirit” is a person who keeps their cool. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive. In other words, if we didn’t always run our mouth, people wouldn’t know how ignorant we are! How many of you have ever been in a group and someone just had to contribute, and it made them look really stupid? If they would just have shut their mouth, no one would have known how ignorant they really were. Amen?
But the fact is, we shouldn’t just spare our words, hold our peace, and shut our lips in order to not air our foolishness; we should be slow to speak and also quick to hear. In other words, this is a great way to become wiser than we are: just be a listener. I mean, you already know what you know, right? So, if you just listen to others, you might learn something. Amen?
As you can see, there is a lot in the Book of Wisdom about the tongue of the foolish & wicked versus the mouth of the wise. Here are some more verses that we won’t take time to cover:
WORDS OF DEATH VERSUS WORDS OF LIFE
So, yes, there is a lot in Proverbs of foolishness as it pertains to words, and we need to understand that these “wicked words” are extremely harmful. Many do not understand this; they do not see how words can do so much damage. We say things like, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That is so untrue, church! The truth is - words can hurt!
Proverbs 12:18 says, There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword… In other places, words are described as swords, arrows, snake bites, fire (see Psalm 57:4, 64:3, 120:2-4, 140:3; Proverbs 16:27, 25:18, 26:21 & James 3:2-12). So, yes, words can be used as weapons!
But as Proverbs 12:18 goes on to say, words are not just instruments of death, they are also instruments of life. Notice what the 2nd half of this Proverb says, …but the tongue of the wise promotes health.
So, just as our words can be weapons and be used to hurt people and things, our words can also be agents of healing and health! Amen! We are God’s healing technicians! We are not called to go around talking “sickness”- how “sick” the church is, how “unhealthy” that person is, or even how we ourselves are not “whole.” We are to promote health and healing, talking about what the church excels in, what God has created that other person to be, and what God’s Word says about us. Don’t “preach” what you don’t want to see; major on “preaching” what you do want to see.
Let’s look at some other Proverbs that talk about the important effects of our words:
Here are some more Proverbs that talk about the life and death that our tongue has the power to produce:
EATING YOUR WORDS
Finally, I want to draw our attention back to the last half of Proverbs 18:21, which says, “and those who love it shall eat the fruit of it.”
What fruit do you want in your life? What do you desire to partake of? Well, according to Proverbs 18:21, we see that we will eat the fruit of the words that we speak. “Eating our words” is a much truer statement than we realized, huh?
Well, we have three verses in Proverbs that speak along these same lines. Let’s look at one of them that is coincidently located one verse before Proverbs 18:21. Quickly, the other two say:
Notice now that Proverbs 18:20 says, A man’s stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; From the produce of his lips he shall be filled.
So, this is three witnesses that establish us in the importance of only speaking of the fruit we desire to partake of. But what is the temptation that we all have? It is to speak the negative - how we currently feel, what we are now seeing, the fears, the death, etc., etc., etc.
For example, when things get tough, our flesh likes to say, “Oh, it’s just so hard! I can’t do it!” No, when things are at their worst, don’t say what you feel; say what heals! In other words, when things aren’t going well, do not speak how unhappy and dissatisfied you are! Why? Because you will not “eat good” that way! It will only produce death in your soul and will attract more of that discontentment. Rather, what should you say when you are tempted to get down in the “mully-grubs”? Say, “I am an overcomer! Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! My God will satisfy me! He satisfies my mouth with good things! Etc., etc., etc.” In other words, don’t talk about what you can’t do, what you don’t know, and what you don’t have. This will only minister darkness to your heart! Reverse what you feel like saying by saying - “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! I have the Anointing and I know all things! I have the mind of Christ! In Christ, I have everything I need! I am blessed, I am anointed, I am strong! Amen!” You see, the Bible doesn’t say, “Let the weak say, ‘Oh, I’m just so weak!’” No, it says, “Let the weak say, ‘I am strong!’” (see Joel 3:10)
THE KEY TO STAYING FULL
But I want you to notice that in Proverbs 18:20, it specifically refers to our stomach being filled by our words. Now, of course, this doesn’t mean that we physically are eating what we are saying. What it is saying, however, is that our words are one of the vital keys to experiencing God’s fullness in your belly where the Holy Spirit resides - like being fulfilled and even filled with the Holy Spirit.
Let’s look over at Ephesians chapter 4: Ephesians 4:29-31 says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”
Now the word “corrupt” in verse 29 describes words that are “rotten, decayed, bad, worthless, unfit for use, and of poor quality”- kind of like fruit that is rotten. It was actually used that way in Matthew 7:17-18, 12:33, & Luke 6:43. In Luke 6:43 Jesus used this Greek word sapros to describe the “bad” tree that produces “bad” fruit. But then He goes on to describe the fruit as being our words! He says at the end of verse 45, “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” So we can learn from this passage of Scripture that “corrupt words” come out of the abundance of “corrupt hearts.”
But then Paul says, “but” which denotes, “Now, don’t just quit the corrupt talk, but start to speak healthy words because death is not the only power in the tongue; life is in it as well!” (Proverbs 18:21). Then he goes on to describe words that are both “good” and which produce “edification.” The word “edification” literally means “building up” or “developing.”
But Paul said that these edifying words are “for necessary edification.” The word “necessary” denotes “in respect to the need.” This means that our good and edifying words should be in conjunction to the need that is present. Sometimes we can speak words with the purpose of benefiting the person but they are spoken at the wrong time. When that happens we can be doing more harm than good. The key is being led by the prompting of the Holy Spirit and just using our head by thinking before we speak. Colossians 4:6 says that our words should be “seasoned with salt.” I believe this means that our words should be flavored in a way that would be most appealing to the taste of the hearers. For example, if I am ministering to a teenager it would be “necessary” for me to season my words with what they could relate to in order to reach them more affectively.
Then he goes on to say, “that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Our words are to impart grace to the hearers! Grace means unmerited favor or free blessings. Sometimes people try and edify another individual and they do it without grace. In other words, they are very insensitive and condemning. Our words should not be like that. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be with grace…” Our words should always be with an attitude of grace - that is, that they are considerate, sympathetic, and life-giving. Our words should be free, life-giving words.
We must understand that words are what our souls feed on. So when we let rotten and decaying words come out of our mouth in the presence of others we are feeding them bad food, but when we let wholesome and nutritious words come out of our mouth we are feeding them good and healthy food that will nourish and build them up. If the good words are words that build up and impart grace, then the corrupt words must be words that tear down and impart death.
Then, notice in verse 32, that he continues with the subject of corrupt words by telling us to put away all these wrong attitudes (that are most often manifested in our mouths) like “bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking.” So, is it a coincidence that “grieving the Holy Spirit” is sandwiched in between verses 29&31 - verses that speak of heart attitudes that are manifested in our words? I think not!
Church, the words we speak greatly determine how much of the Holy Spirit we are experientially full of. Yes, He is grieved and quenched when we speak words that are unbecoming. Therefore, our stomachs are filled by the produce of our lips! Someone will say, “Oh, I want more of you Holy Spirit! Fill me up!” And He says, “Fix that leak beneath your nose!” Amen!
Church, our words are indeed powerful! They can build up and they can tear down - both others and our own selves. Therefore, wisdom will love this power that is in the tongue - that is, it will respect it and utilize it the appropriate way.
So, let’s appropriate this wisdom pertaining to our words today and become wise in our words. Yes, as James said, our words have the power to start a fire and destroy things around us, but they also have the power to start the good kind of fire too! Let’s use our tongue wisely, church!
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