Summary: What comes out of our mouths can either energize someone or wipe them out. As we utilize words of life, we’ll build one another up instead of tearing each other down.
Watching Our Words
A young man arrived early to pick up his girlfriend for their date. She ran to the door with wet hair and no makeup on her face. She was embarrassed and tried to make the best of the situation and so she smiled and said, “Well, what do you think?” He grinned and very wisely said, “It looks like something beautiful is about to happen!”
Several years later, this couple got married. One day, the man came home to find his wife with her hair up in huge pink curlers. He looked at her and said, “What happened to your hair?” “I set it,” she responded. To which he replied caustically, “When does it go off?”
Both of these situations are funny but only one was kind. Words can devastate or delight. They can energize people or wipe them out. They tear down or build up.
As we established last Sunday, the Book of Proverbs is a guidebook for wisdom. These wise words do not tell us how to make a living, but how to be skillful in the lost art of making a life. How many of you are reading one chapter of Proverbs a day? That’s great. Keep it up. If you want to become a wise guy or a wise woman, then develop the fear of the Lord, devote yourself to the Word of God, determine to get wisdom, decide to ask for it, and dedicate yourself to Jesus.
Our main emphasis last week was on developing the fear of the Lord. When we view God properly we will become wise. In addition, Psalm 34:11-13 tells us that when we’re wowed by God, then we will watch our words: “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.”
As we continue in our study in Proverbs, we’ll discover that this book has a lot to say about what we say. In fact, Proverbs refers to our tongue, our mouth, or our lips over 150 times in just 31 chapters! Words are very important. Genesis 1 reminds us that the entire universe came into existence simply because “God said.” Jesus Himself is referred to as the “Word of God” in John 1:1.
Our primary text this morning is Proverbs 18:21: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Our words either launch life or they deliver death. Everything you have said this week either assassinated someone or breathed life into the people around you. Let’s look at this verse a little more closely.
Our Words are Powerful
The first thing we see is that the “tongue has the power.” During World War II the government printed some posters that showed a drowning soldier in the ocean, with four words printed at the bottom of the picture: “Loose Lips Sink Ships.” It was very important that when the GI’s were in port, that they not tell anyone where their ship was headed. Because there were spies around, this information would be given to the enemy who would use it to target the American ship for sinking. A soldier who talked too much could literally lose his life and cause the death of hundreds of others.
Words are powerful for at least three reasons.
1. Words are everywhere. According to researchers, on an average day, we open our mouths 700 times, using about 18,000 words! If we speak this much, we’re bound to say something that brings death to someone. And hopefully we’re also using some life-giving words. No wonder Jesus said in Matthew 12:37: “By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
2. Words penetrate within. Proverbs 12:18: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Loose lips still sink ships today. Our tongues torpedo relationships and ambush reputations. Like a sword, our speech can lacerate a life in a matter of seconds. The things we say can either bring emotional life to people or emotional death. You’ve experienced both. Proverbs 12:25: “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Think of a time when someone spoke exactly the right words at the right time. What did they say? How did their words build you up? Now think of a time when someone spoke recklessly. What was said? Some of you remember words that sliced through your spirit decades ago. How did those words affect you?
3. Words spread far and wide. We say a lot of words and they go down deep. They also get spread far and wide. Proverbs 16:27: “A scoundrel plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.” Perhaps you’ve experienced the pain that comes from a rumor that spreads like wild fire. It’s no fun, is it? Words don’t just evaporate once they’re spoken. They’re like burning embers that can engulf an entire forest. After attending Thursday night’s women’s Bible Study, Donna Tuley sent me an email that summarized what she learned. This is what she wrote: “Words have tremendous power for good and evil, don’t they? They take on a life of their own and “hang” out there forever.”