Summary: Examines the negative aspects of speech, and how to overcome them.


For several years, when I was very young, our family lived in Palatka, Florida. During the time we lived there, the place that stands out most in my mind is the home my parents had on 10 acres, out in the country. Our family of 4 at the time, lived in a single-wide, 2 bedroom 1 bath trailer. And let me tell you, in those days they weren’t mobile homes. They weren’t manufactured homes. They were trailers. We had 2 bedrooms for the 4 of us. Dusty and I shared a room. As a matter of fact, we shared a bed.

We didn’t have much, but we did have 10 cleared acres of land, with a giant ditch running through the middle of it. For two little boys, it was a great place to live. I have memories of chickens, and dogs, cows, pigs, and horses. We used to have 2 junk cars at the end of the pasture, like country folk often do. Dusty and I used to work on those cars when we were 5 and 6. Didn’t know much about working on cars, but we did know how to put water in the batteries, because we had seen Daddy do that, so when we worked on the cars we would take old Coke bottles down filled with water, to put water in those batteries.

Have many memories of the years we spent there. One memory that stands out from those days was when Daddy used to burn off the grass in the pasture in the Spring, to help it grow and to help kill the weeds. They didn’t let us get too close, but you could sure see those mice running across the field trying to get away from the flames.

One time, when Daddy was burning some trash in a barrel out back, a wind came up and set the field on fire by accident. By the time we spotted it, the fire was out of control. Neighbors from down the road came with their teenage sons, and with their help, some shovels and blankets soaked with water from the ditch, they finally got the fire under control. There was a lot burned that night and it was a frightening time. All that, caused by a spark from a barrel.

James says in James 3:5 … Though the tongue is a small part, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. (HCSB)

We have often heard children say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This week in my quiet time, of all the passages and verses I read, the one that stuck with me throughout the week was one that runs counter to that. The verse is in Proverbs. Proverbs 25:15. Turn with me to that verse please.

Proverbs 25:15 A ruler can be persuaded through patience, and a gentle tongue can break a bone. A gentle tongue can break a bone. That runs against what popular culture says.

This morning, and next week as well, I would like to examine with you, especially from the book of Proverbs, the power of the tongue, the power of speech. This morning, we will emphasize the negative aspects of the tongue. We will look at how you and I can hurt, and maim, and tear people down with the things we say. Next week we will look at how you and I can use our tongues to build up and to help others.

Now, looking through the book of Proverbs, I find 6 damaging ways you and I can use our tongues or our speech.


1. Flattering –

> Proverbs 28:23 He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue.

What is flattering. Flattering, especially the type condemned in Proverbs, is excessive praise and insincere compliments given in order to gain favor with another person. You and I probably would probably think of it as sucking up.

My friend, the Bible condemns dishonest flattering. It is dishonest to build up another person so you can gain an advantage over them, or so you can gain favor with them. Yes, encourage people. Build them up. But be honest about it.

2. Gossip – Listen to the writer in Proverbs 16:27-28

- Proverbs 16:27-28

Gossip is derogatory stuff you say about other people, for no good purpose. Now we Christians often dress up by saying we are “sharing a prayer request,” but it amounts to the same thing.

Tom recently told me a story about a man who went to a priest and confessed that the Lord had recently convicted him of gossip. He wanted to know what he could do to make it right. The priest told him to go to the top of a mountain, rip open a feather pillow, turn the feathers loose in the wind, and then come back the next day. So the man did like he was told. He went to the top of a mountain, tore open a feather pillow, and scattered the feathers to the wind. The next day he went back to the priest and asked what he was to do next. The priest told him to go back and collect all of the feathers. The man complained that it would be impossible to collect all of those feathers. They were scattered everywhere. That, my friend, was the point. Once you begin to gossip, the words to spread scatter to the wind and can never be retrieved. You don’t know where they are going to go, where they will land, or whom they will hurt.

How easy it is to see the speck in someone else’s eye, while missing the log in our own eye. If the church today is going to see revival, then Christians are going to have to repent of their wagging tongues and begin to look for ways to build one another up instead of tearing each other down.

Jesus said, “By this may they know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Let me ask you, would be recognized as a disciple of Jesus by the way you talk about your brothers and sisters in Christ?

Our speech is damaging when we are flattering. It is damaging when we gossip, and it is damaging when we use angry, cutting words.

3. We use angry, cutting words.

The other day, I was working on a roof early in the morning. It is amazing the things I have learned about Karl and Marlene’s neighborhood by spending some time on their roof. Anyway, the other day I got an early start and was on their roof before 7. Shortly after I got started I saw a young boy, probably about 10, in the backyard of the street behind me. He was looking for a dog. What drew my attention was the woman, his mother I believe, who started calling for him. The next thing I knew, she started cussing him at the top of her lungs, using words about him and the dog that would make a sailor blush. She very quickly told him what she thought of him, his dog, and both of them waking her up when she hadn’t slept the night before. It broke my heart when I thought of the poor boy growing up in a home like that.

The writer says in proverbs 12:18 that:

> Proverbs 12:18 There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword…

Did you hear that? My friends, your words can cut and tear down more than you can imagine. Ladies, you have no idea the power your words have. With your tongue you can build up your husband and help him strive for great things, or pull the rug from under him. Men, you can build up your wives and help them become godly ladies, or you can cause them to become bitter, sulking women. The power you have in your children’s lives is immeasurable.

That’s cutting words, we haven’t even mentioned arguing yet. Now I’m not talking about having and voicing differing opinions. Unless you’re a puppet, you won’t always agree with other people. But, we can disagree without being argumentative. Sometimes, arguing becomes a habit, and we just can’t let the other person be right. We argue about things that don’t even matter. We turn our homes into a living hell.

Evidently the writer of Proverbs experienced that so he wrote in 17:1:

> Proverbs 17:1 Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house full of feasting with strife.

Let me ask you, do you, with your mouth, make your home a place your children and your spouse enjoy coming home to, or do you make it a place they avoid at every opportunity?

There is another damaging way we use our tongues, and that is through bragging. Turn with me to Proverbs 6:16.

4. Bragging –

- Proverbs 6:16-19

In these verses the Bible tells us a number of things God hates, including lying and gossiping, but did you notice what headed the list? Haughty eyes! God hates braggarts.

You can tell them. They often have to tell you how much they’ve done, or what they’ve done, or how good they are. It’s me, me, me. Jesus said, “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand’s doing.”

5. Coarse joking –

> Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, …

My friend, coarse joking and coarse joking is not to be found in our speech. …

6. Excessive talking –

> Proverbs 10:19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable.

My friends, how much time do you spend listening to others? …


1. CONFESS – Quit making excuses for your mouth, and confess your speech as the sin it is. Until you admit you’re sinning, you’ll never have victory.

2. PRAY – Second, get help where help is available. Ask for God’s help.

> James 4:2 …you have not, because you ask not. James says the reason we don’t have control, the reason we don’t have the things we desire is because we don’t ask God for them. If you want victory over your speech, pray about it and ask for God’s help.


> Matthew 15:18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.

My friend, if you and I are going to control our tongues, we need a heart transplant. We need our hearts changed. Jesus says that the things that come out our mouths, come from our hearts. You say, “But she drove me to it. Or, you don’t know what kind of day I had.” My friend, a cup, no matter how quickly shaken can only spill what’s in it. If you spend time with God and fill your mind with the things and the Word of God, then He will help give you victory over your mouth.


- Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grave to those who hear.

The Bible says that only good words are supposed to come out of our mouths, but how are we to measure those words? I propose a 4-way test.

In 1932 Herbert Taylor was assigned the job of saving an aluminum products company from bankruptcy. The company’s products were better than their competitor’s. Their sales people were no better than their competitors’. So he decided that their company would be known for the character, dependability, and service mindedness of their personnel.

Let me read you his words on how he solved the problem.

One day in July 1932, I decided to pray about the matter. That morning I leaned over my desk and asked God to give us a simple guide to help us think, speak and do that which was right. I immediately picked up a white card and wrote The 4-Way Test of the things we think, say or do:

1. Is it the TRUTH?

2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?


4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?"

Let me encourage you, this coming week, to apply the test God gave him, the one Rotarians claim to follow, to every word you say. Ask: