Summary: First part of this message focus’ on words that wound (from Proverbs) and the need for a changed heart.
We are continuing in our series through the book of Proverbs to seek God’s wisdom for everyday living. When I began going through Proverbs and categorizing different proverbs into various topics. The one topic which kept coming up again and again was the tongue or the mouth. There are more proverbs aimed at the words we say and the way we say them than just about anything else, in fact there is so much I needed to make this into a two-part sermon. Why did Solomon write so much on the tongue?
NIV Proverbs 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
He included so many Proverbs on the tongue because our words are powerful. They have the power of life and death. They can pierce like a sword or they can heal. What we say to others or what they say to us effects us more often than we care to admit. Whoever said the phrase “Stick and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was wrong, words can and do hurt. Physical harm is only superficial while words can cut to the heart whether for good or for bad. I’m sure most of us have said things we regret.
When you consider the fact that the average man speaks over 20,000 words a day and the average woman about 30,000 words a day…(I’m not making any judgment calls here) you get the idea for how much potential this has for helping or hurting other people.
In the NT book of wisdom called James, written by Jesus’ brother James he says this:
NLT James 1:26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control (bridle) your tongue, you are just fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.
James reminds us that our “religion” or our Christian faith should impact the words we say and how we say them. As Christians we, of all people, should control our tongue and use our words carefully. If we cannot control our tongue, if we act just like everyone else around us who are of the world than what is the point of our faith (or religion), it is worthless. He was not saying Christian faith is worthless, but we are missing Christ’s transforming power in our life.
Let me ask, what kind of words have we been using, especially with our spouse, children, family, friends, coworkers? Do our words reflect our faith? Do they reflect Jesus? Do they bring life and healing? Do they encourage and build up? Or do they cut like a sword and criticize, tear down, and injure?
Have you ever noticed how we tend to use the worst language with those we are closest to? The people we should be building up the most are the very ones we tear down. Around strangers we act nice saying kind and helpful things, but as soon as we get around family we seem to act differently. The truth is the person we are when we are around our family is the real us, because all of the masks are off. There’s no pretending around our family, they know who we really are, and sometimes it’s ugly and does not reflect our faith.
This morning we are going to begin by looking at the reckless words we use which pierce like a sword, and next week we will come back and focus on the tongue of the wise, and how our words should bring healing.
1. Words That Wound
One of the reckless ways we use words, according to Proverbs, is gossip.
NRS Proverbs 11:13 A gossip goes about telling secrets, but one who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a confidence.
This is a pretty obvious statement but people are still doing it. Gossip is telling secrets, sharing something spoken to us in confidence without their permission or spreading a rumor (without the facts) that we heard from someone. It may be based in fact, or it may just be conjecture, but it doesn’t really matter. Here’s a rule of thumb, if you start a phrase with “well I heard…” or “so and so told me,” it is probably going to be followed by gossip.
People gossip to get attention, but it always works against us. Sure you may get attention, people will listen, but the crowd is short lived and once those dainty morsels of rumors are over people avoid you because you have broken trust. Once trust is broken it divides friends (16:28) and families. And people learn to distrust a gossip because chances are pretty good that if they spill the beans on what others tell them, they will probably share whatever I tell them too. Before you share something ask yourself, “do I have permission to share this?” or “If the person I am talking about were right here would they be bothered by what I am saying?”