You & Your Mouth!
Welcome to the Real World!
A word study in Proverbs
by Pastor Frank Rice
Let’s face it; whenever we’ve found ourselves in “hot water,” inevitably the thing that got us in that predicament is something that we’ve said. We agree that our actions do provide ample opportunities for self-inflicted injuries, but speech is so much more problematic. Whether we like it or not, it just seems to happen! The book of Proverbs has multiple references to the mouth (50 X’s), the lips (41 X’s), and the tongue (19 X’s). That opening below your nose can get you into lots of trouble, but only if you let it.
I. Some Proverbs Mention Only Speech that Is Negative & Nasty!
❖ Beware of deceitful and perverted speech, in others and yourself.
- Put some distance between you and any kind of deceitful, twisted speech; it marks a person as worthless (4:24; 6:12)! He has a glaring character deficiency!
- Twisted, perverted speech is a mark of pride and arrogance, which the Lord hates (8:13)! To fear the Lord is to hate evil! “Don’t speak or listen to foolish speech.” (Longman) That’ll put a damper on most folks entertainment menu!
- Those who have crooked minds (the morally crooked) have difficulty in finding any good in anything and are destined to fail miserably (17:20). “The idea of ‘trouble’ refers to calamity or adversity in this life.” (Ross)
- Hatred, hypocrisy, lying, and deceit are all evidence of self-deception (10:18; 26:24). This person “pretends, he fakes it and waits for an opportune time to express his hatred.” (Ryrie)
❖ Beware of smooth talkers and lying lips that can set you up for destruction! (Constant vigilance and discernment are necessary!)
- The immoral, whether men or women, have a knack for saying things invitingly (5:3; 6:17). The Lord hates a lying tongue!
- Be careful that you don’t get trapped or ensnared by your own words (6:2). Sympathy, pride, or gullibility can ensnare a man.
❖ Beware of flattery and self-promoting speech!
- Men especially can be easy targets for flattery (6:24, 7:21; 26:28). “Those whose mouths are characterized by lies and flattery hate the victims they bring to ruin.” (Ryrie)
- Don’t “blow your own horn;” leave that to someone else; if you catch yourself doing it, put a stop to it (27:2; 30:32)! “The warning to put one’s hand to one’s mouth… is equivalent to saying ‘Shut up.’” (Longman)
- Silence is prudent! “It is better to be silent and appear stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” (17:28)
❖ Be aware of the consequences of negative, nasty speech.
- People will (should) disassociate with these folks (14:7; 20:19)! Exercise caution when among those who speak indiscriminately!
- These folks set themselves up for a beating (18:6-7)! A big mouth invites strife and gets folks in deep trouble! “What the fool says can ruin him.” (Ross)
- These folks have nothing to offer in the way of wisdom (24:7). Wise people refuse to take fools seriously! They have nothing to contribute! “Stupid people cannot be wise because it is beyond them, with the result that they are quiet in a key place of community leadership…” (Longman) [A literal translation of Proverbs is a bit more blunt than we might imagine!]
II. Some Proverbs Present Clear Contrasts for Our Assessment!
❖ Strive to speak what is positive and profitable! [Even though these are contrasts (but), we’ll endeavor to focus on the positive aspect.]
- The mouths of those who are right with God (righteous) are “a source of spiritual vitality” (10:11, 21; 15:4). What they say is wonderfully refreshing and revitalizing!
- The hearts and minds of the intelligent feed on knowledge and their mouths share it with others (15:14, 7, 2).
- The mouths of the righteous are a source of wisdom (10:31). They provide insight for many.
❖ Strive to speak what is thoughtful and calculated.
- There are times when restraint is the best option (10:19; 13:3)! Often, the fewer the words, the more memorable they are! “Take heed that your tongue does not cut your throat.” (Old Arab proverb!)
- There are times for thoughtful reflection before speaking (15:28; 10:32). Wisdom has an innate sense of propriety! “Those who are wise are cautious in how they answer.” (Ross)
- Even thoughtful preparation of words is sometimes overridden by our sovereign God (16:1). (We should be thankful. Right?)
❖ Strive to speak what is considered of inestimable value.
- The Lord delights in truthful speech (12:22)! The God of truth loves truth!
- The tongue of the righteous and the lips of knowledge are both considered of immeasurable value (10:20; 20:15).
- Truth will endure; it will always outlive lies (12:19). “Lies have generally limited staying power.” (Plaut)
III. Some Proverbs Focus Only on Speech that Is Positive & Profitable!
❖ Positive and profitable words are powerful tools.
- They can bring delight and joy to prominent people (16:13; 22:11). (Keep in mind; these are proverbs, not promises! Wicked hearts have little appetite for truth!)
- They can do the same for the average person (15:23; 23:16).
- Gentle words can prevail (25:15)! “Self-restraint and gentle speech are effective against stubborn opposition.” (Ryrie)
❖ Positive and profitable words can dramatically impact lives!
- Your speech can be a source of life and hope (18:21). Often the consequences, whether good or bad, are unforeseen!
- Your speaking at the appropriate time can save lives (31:8-9). These verses have often, and appropriately, been applied by pro-life advocates. This refers primarily to a king, but is applicable to others. “It is the responsibility of the king to champion the rights of the poor and needy, those who are left desolate by the cruelties of life.” (Ross)
- Your speech, when marked by truth, is a sign of friendship (24:26). “A truthful answer is the mark of friendship.” (Ross)
Allow kindness to regulate your speech and you won’t go wrong (31:26)!