Summary: This picture in Proverbs 18:20-21 of planting seeds in our lives from our mouths. We are given the choice of either planting bad seeds which planting bad seeds which produce poisonous fruit or good seeds which produce good fruit.


PROVERBS 18:20-21

ILLUSTRATION… Planting seeds with your mouth (p)

As we begin our time in God’s word this morning, I’d like you to use your imagination to act out in your mind the Bible passage that we will be focusing on… so put on your imagination caps! You are a gardener. I’d like you to imagine yourself at a small plot of ground that is your garden... I know some of you do your best to avoid nature, but just do your best… it’s your imagination! You are dressed in overalls, gloves, a big straw hat; ready for a day of gardening. The sun is out and the weather is beautiful. There is a slight breeze that hits your cheek as you see the green grass framing your garden and smell the promise of growth. The garden is freshly tilled, the dirt soft and brown, and the rows of dirt are all ready to receive seeds and fertilizer.

Each of the rows of your small garden are marked with little square signs on little wooden posts.

You come to the first row of your garden, and it has a little sign that says “family.” You bend down and pull a seed right out of your mouth [pull seed from mouth] and plant it right into the ground. You pack the dirt in well over the seed that you just put into the ground. You move along the row that is marked “family” and you take a seed, one by one, out of your mouth, [pull seed from mouth] [pull seed from mouth] and plant it into the ground and pack the dirt over it.

You come to the second row of your garden, and it has a little sign that says “co-workers.” You bend down and pull a seed right out of your mouth and plant it right into the ground. You move along the row that is marked “co-workers” and you take a seed, one by one, out of your mouth, [pull seed from mouth] and plant it into the ground.

You come to the third row of your garden, and it has a little sign that says, “friends.” You do the same by taking seeds out of your mouth and planting them right into the ground. The next row says “acquaintances & enemies” and then “facebook postings” and then “emails” and then “other drivers in traffic.” Each row of the garden is dedicated to the different people or areas of communicating in your life and you stoop down in each section [pull seed from mouth] [pull seed from mouth] [pull seed from mouth] and take seeds from your mouth and plant them right into the ground.

After you have planted every single row, you step back and look at your garden. It is now fully planted with all the seeds of your mouth. The ground is full of the seeds of your mouth.

The Question of the Day is: What will grow from the seeds of your mouth?

The passage we will look at today gives us a mental picture that the words that come out of our mouths are planted into our lives and the lives around us and those words grow and have consequences. The passage describes those consequences in terms of life and death, good fruit and poison, and good and evil. This idea is sprinkled all throughout the Book of Proverbs. Verse 20, which we are about to read, shares with us the idea that we eat the fruit of our mouths and that we reap the benefits or consequences of what we say to others. Verse 20 tells us we have to accept whatever comes our way when it is the result of what we have said, good or bad. Hopefully, the consequences of our words should produce satisfaction and fulfillment for us. Verse 21 shares with us the startling and true statement that words are powerful. Words and the tongue have the power of life and death.

We are just looking at 2 verses this morning in Proverbs 18, so I’d like to read them from different translations to help us understand what God is saying directly to us.



“A man's belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.

21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

NIV 1984:

“From the fruit of his mouth a man's stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied. 21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”


“Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest.

21 Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.”

The Question of the Day is: What will grow from the seeds of your mouth?

Overall, we have this picture in Proverbs 18:20-21 of planting seeds in our lives from our mouths. As in any good proverb, the verses give us an “either or choice” when looking at the subject. We are given the choice of either planting bad seeds which produce poisonous fruit or good seeds which produce good fruit.


So what would we consider “seeds of death” that might come out of our mouths? Right away the Book of Proverbs would list gossip and slander, criticism, and cursing as seeds of our mouths that produce fruit harmful in our lives because there are specifically verses about those things in the book.


Gossip is idle talk or rumor about the personal lives and private affairs of others whether it is true or not. Slander is akin to gossip because it is the making of false statements about rumors about the lives of people that damage their reputations. I would also say that gossip is also having hungry ears for information about other people. Neither gossip nor slander has good results.

So why do we gossip? We gossip and slander others to feel superior. When we don’t feel good about ourselves, it temporarily makes us feel better when we judge others negatively. Sometimes we gossip out of boredom because there us nothing else to talk about and it seems interesting. More often than not, we gossip out of envy. Sometimes we disparage someone’s character or their lives or spread hurt because we want to hurt those whose popularity, talents, or lifestyle we envy. We also gossip out of anger or unhappiness. It is cleansing and perhaps cathartic to make disparaging remarks about someone when you yourself are unhappy. It is cathartic, but wrong.

Other Proverbs tell us gossip and slander is wrong:

Proverbs 11:13 “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.”

Proverbs 16:28 “A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”

Proverbs 20:19 “A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.”

Proverbs 24:28 “Do not testify against your neighbor without cause, or use your lips to deceive.”

Proverbs shares with us that if you sow gossip, slander, and other kinds of idle talk in our lives that what grows from those seeds are betrayed confidences with the people around us, an untrustworthy reputation for us, and separation from those people we love and care for. Betrayal. Untrustworthiness. Separation. Those are the kinds of things that grow from gossip and slander.

ILLUSTRATION... adapted from

What do we do to avoid gossip and slander? How do we get out of the habit of betrayal, untrustworthiness, and separation?

#1 Avoid association with people who gossip or slander.

#2 Ask yourself the question: Am I a part of the problem or a part of the solution? If you are not part of the solution, you don’t need to hear the information.

#3 Ask the person talking if you can go directly to the person of whom is being spoken and use their name so that the problem can be corrected or helped.

#4 Don’t believe everything you hear and hear all sides of a story with everyone involved.

#5 When talking with others, we must be certain our motives are pure.

#6 Build strong loyal friendships and decide to be a strong loyal friend.

#7 Become proactive and be upbeat of others accomplishments and speak highly of those around you.


Some of us are experts at complaining… aren’t we? We whine and complain about everything and anything. We are also experts at being judgmental of those people, situations, and organizations around us. A critical and judgmental spirit is not difficult to recognize… especially if you have to deal with it on a regular basis. Its fruit is usually evident. Someone with a critical spirit is prone to complaining, seeing the glass as half-empty, lamenting about unmet expectations, sensing failure in others, and being judgmental. Critical spirits are no fun to be around; neither are they fun to possess. A critical spirit is toxic and is poisonous to our lives.

The Book of Proverbs shares with us that the words we use can have negative and poisonous consequences. Criticism is shown to be destructive as well as a judgmental spirit.

Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Proverbs 16:13 “Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth.”

Proverbs 29:11 “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”

Proverbs 30:33 “For as churning the milk produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.”

I see in these verses a warning to us about stirring people up with our words because of a critical nature and judgmental opinions. The end result of these bad seeds from our mouths is wrath from those around us, broken relationships, mistrust of those in authority, and foolish actions.

ILLUSTRATON… adapted from

Obviously, critical spirits are destructive, tearing down both the recipient and the giver of the criticisms and are most definitely seeds of death from our mouths. The Bible speaks against such critical judgment. In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Jesus is NOT saying that we should not be discerning or not judge things around us. He is also NOT saying that we must never, under any circumstance, criticize anyone else. We are to judge rightly according to God’s standards. The problem is that this “judging rightly” can be warped by our sinful nature and it becomes destructive, unloving, and hurtful.

So how do we overcome a critical spirit in ourselves?

#1 The condition of our heart is crucial and we must cultivate a condition of thankfulness recognizing what God has given us in the past, what He is doing for us right now, and what He has is store for us in the future. Thankfulness is an antidote for a critical spirit.

#2 The condition of our minds is crucial as well. Another important area is our thought lives. Rather than focus on what is missing or broken or out of touch, we should think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy.

#3 Forgiveness is also priority when combating a critical spirit.

#4 It can also be helpful to remind ourselves that we do not know the thoughts and intentions of others. At times, behavior reflects motivation, but not always. Before making a critical remark (whether aloud or to ourselves), we should pause and consider other possibilities. Is this person truly an uncaring jerk, or is he perhaps going through a difficult situation and in need of grace?


The Book of Proverbs puts gossip, slander, criticism, and judgmental words in the seeds of death category. It also includes cursing. Cursing would be those words used in anger to express our hearts that do nothing but destroy such as [bleep] and [bleep] and [bleep]. They tear down. Cursing would be those words that use the Lord’s name in vain whether you speak them out loud, write them in a text, or send it out on a status on facebook. That would include things like OMG, “God damn” and anything else that uses the Lord’s name inappropriately. A great rule of thumb is, if you aren’t talking to God or about Him, don’t use His name. Cursing would be dirty jokes or jokes and talk at the expense of other people would also be included in that. Let me tell you a dirty joke so you get the idea.


A vacuum salesman appeared at the door of an old lady's cottage and, without allowing the woman to speak, rushed into the living room and threw a large bag of dirt all over her clean carpet. He said, "If this new vacuum doesn't pick up every bit of dirt then I'll eat all the dirt."

The woman, who by this time was losing her patience, said, "Sir, if I had enough money to buy that thing, I would have paid my electricity bill before they cut it off. Now, what would you prefer, a spoon or a knife and fork?"

That is of course a “dirt joke” rather than a dirty joke, but you get the idea. I hope.

What does the Book of Proverbs say about cursing and perverse talk?

Proverbs 4:24 “Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.”

Proverbs 8:7-8 “My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. 8 All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse.”

Proverbs 20:20 “If a man curses his father or mother, his lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.”

Proverbs 26:2 “Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.”

ILLUSTRATION… adapted from

Like any bad habit, swearing is easy to pick up and a lot more difficult to put a stop to. Sometimes we don't even realize we are doing it. However, it is certainly possible to change our swearing habits by recognizing that you have a problem and putting a genuine effort into correcting it.

#1 Be patient with yourself. Swearing is habit that you've probably picked up over a number of years and which you've come to rely on as part of your daily speech. Like any ingrained habit, it will be impossible to stop doing it overnight. Training yourself to stop swearing is a process, you'll have good days and bad days, but it's important to keep at it and recognize when you do it so you can change.

#2 We could enlist the help of a friend. Sharing a difficult experience or task with a friend or accountability partner will make the whole experience more tolerable.

#3 We can identify your triggers and learn to avoid them if possible. Everyone has their own individual triggers which set them off, leading to the intense desire to express ourselves with a swear word. For some people it's traffic, for others it's the line at the grocery store and for others still, it's when your favorite team loses again… and again. If you can pinpoint what your exact triggers are, you may be able to avoid them or at least be aware and prepared.

#4 Ping your wrist with a rubber band. This method is the human equivalent of putting an electric shock collar on a dog to eliminate bad behaviors - unsavory but effective. Basically, all you need to do is wear a rubber band or a hair tie around your wrist and give it a firm snap every time you catch yourself swearing.

The thinking behind this is that your brain will come to associate swearing with pain and, over time, will cause you to mentally shy away from using bad words. If you're really serious about this method, you could give permission to a friend to snap the band for you. Just try to remember that you agreed to it.

#5 Pretend your grandmother is always within earshot. Another way to train yourself to bite your tongue whenever you feel a swear word coming on is to imagine that someone is listening. All the time. It could be your grandmother, your boss or your innocent little son or daughter, just as long as it's someone you'd be ashamed to swear in front of… if thinking that God is always at your side isn’t quite good enough.

The Question of the Day is: What will grow from the seeds of your mouth?


Overall, we have this picture in Proverbs 18:20-21 of planting seeds in our lives from our mouths. As in any good proverb, the verses give us an “either or choice” when looking at the subject. We are given the choice of either planting bad seeds which produce poisonous fruit or good seeds which produce good fruit. We have seen the seeds of death… how about we look at seeds of life! The seeds of life are many… encouragement, instruction, and truth are some that Proverbs focuses on.


Proverbs will tell us that encouragement spoken from the heart in love is always the manner to treat others. We should always choose words that nourish, encourage, and help rather than destroy. These are the kinds of words that are life. The Bible tells us that our words flow from our heart and so we need to cultivate an encouraging attitude and heart so that words we say will be an overflow of that.

Proverbs 10:21 “The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.”

Proverbs 22:17-18 “Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips.”

What can we do to be encouraging?

#1 Write an unexpected note of prayer or encouraging words.

#2 When you know someone is having a bad day, take them to lunch or give them a phone call.

#3 Quote Bible verses you love on your facebook page or twitter feed.


Saying words that instruct others is also prized in the Book of Proverbs… not just talking about an issue or criticizing it, but offering a plan and a way to help is wise and good and brings life. All of us can find things about people we don’t like or problems that we have to deal with… the wise person is guided by their love for God and offers not just opinion, but instruction on how to help.

Proverbs 16:23 “A wise man's heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.”

How can we do to make this a part of our lives?

#1 Don’t complain without offering a solution.

#2 Don’t be critical without having all the facts straight and offering a way to fix the issue.

#3 Perhaps if you are called on to help a friend, educate yourself about their issues before you speak.


To be honest, lying is one of the big 10 in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. We all know that lying tears down. To be honest, sometimes the truth can also tear down if it is not paired with love and gentleness. Proverbs tells us to speak truth in a way that is gentle, and perhaps dances around a little to make the point… all for the purpose of building up the other person.

Proverbs 8:7 “My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.”

Proverbs 12:22 “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.”

Proverbs 24:26 “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.”


How can we pair truth and gentleness with our truthful answers to one another?

#1 Pray before, during, and after we say what must be said.

#2 Make sure God wants you to say anything at all.

#3 We should have a open relationship with the person with whom we are going to talk.

#4 We should attempt to conduct the conversation either with the individual alone or with just a few people.

#5 What we say must be the truth and should be God approved.

#6 We must make sure we are speaking from an attitude of love.

#7 We must guide those to whom we speak back to God and the Bible.

The Question of the Day is: What will grow from the seeds of your mouth?



To be honest with you, we can talk about tips and tricks to help tame our tongues, but none of it matters unless we change one very important part of our lives. Jesus Christ tells us in Matthew 12:34-35, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” The key in any change that we want to make is always the heart. You have to decide in your heart that the seeds that come out of you mouth will grow good things and benefit others rather than poisonous talk and tear them down. We are given the choice of either planting bad seeds which produce poisonous fruit or good seeds which produce good fruit. Which will you choose?

The Question of the Day is: What will grow from the seeds of your mouth?