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Summary: Minding your tongue

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Wisdom in Speech

John Shearhart

October 13, 2010

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Your tongue is a great source of power, and it can do many things.

It can nourish and heal:

The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips. 24Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:23-24).

Notice that even here, were brought back to the heart. The one who guard his heart is able to speak words of healing.

Also notice that pleasant words are a honeycomb. This is a metaphor which brings to mind eating something delicious and delightful. Have you ever thought of that; have you thought of your words as something pleasing to eat up?

This reminds me of the story of Sauls son, Jonathan. Hes famished from chasing the Philistines and when he sees a honeycomb he reached out the end of his staff that was in his hand and dipped it into the honeycomb. He raised his hand to his mouth and his eyes brightened (I Samuel 14:27).

The honeycomb was a source of energy and life to Jonathan. The Bible compares your words to this. The positive and uplifting words you choose to use have the power to bring nourishment and healing.

Pleasant words go a long way. In fact this Scripture tells us that they are sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Take advantage of your opportunities to encourage.

The tongue is also a source of destruction:

There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18).

Note the contrast: we have gone from pleasant words to rash or reckless words. Pleasant words bring life, but reckless words pierce like a sword.

When I was in the sixth grade, a very popular girl looked at me in disgust and said, Ill bet you dont even wash your face. Now, I had given no reason for that comment. I was a very clean child, but it cut straight to my heart and left an impression deep enough that I remember it even today.

And it doesnt take a barrage of insults or reckless words to bring a person down. The Japanese say, The tongue is but three inches long, yet it can kill a person six feet high.

The Bible puts it this way:

A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire (Proverbs 16:27).

Note the use of the simile here. The evil mans speech is like scorching fire. It burns; it hurts; it destroys.

The tongue is a source of wisdom or folly:

The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly (Proverbs 15:2).

The tongue is a tool and an asset for the wise. By the tongue knowledge is imparted and ideas are shared; common sense is given. This sermon is possible because of my tongue.

Do you view your tongue as a tool for wisdom? A tool is used to fix problems. Imagine if you went to a shop because your tire had a slow leak. The mechanic walks over to your car, looks it over, grabs a hammer, opens the hood, and smashes your battery. What a fool! A wise mechanic can look at a vehicle, understand the issues, select the right tools, and fix everything. In his wisdom, he uses the right tools in the right places in the right way.

The wise can listen to or observe a problem and in wisdom use their tongues to fix things.

What does this look like?

When someone gossips, the wise might say, We are not going to talk that way.

When someone has a problem with a brother, the wise might say, Lets pray about this, and then you need to go talk to him in love.

When someone is irate, the wise might say nothing at all for a while. The secret is in viewing the tongue as a tool, and knowing when, how, and if to use it.

The tongue is a source of sin:

When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19).

I like this paraphrase: Dont talk so much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow! (Taylor 1967, 229)

Here is my own paraphrase: When a person keeps running his mouth, he is bound to sin. But a person who knows when to keep quiet is better off.

Sometimes the time comes when there is nothing left to say.

The tongue is a source of division:

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

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