Summary: Words matter. Proverbs gives us some advice on how to speak well.

One of the most difficult things to do in life is to control what you say. We do a good job for a while but then in one weak moment and we can do irreparable damage. Words hurt and heal, they go deep into our hearts and minds. The old saying is not true that “sticks and stones can break our bones but names can never hurt us”. Derogatory names, harsh words, accusations, half-truths, lies, all hurt us.

The Bible talks a great deal about speech. In the book of Proverbs alone it is suggested that there are about 90 proverbs that regard the issue of speech. That is not only because of its importance, it is also because most of us struggle to find consistency in this area of our lives.

Proverbs 21:23 pretty well sums up what Solomon wants to teach us about our speech (in case you decide to nap during the sermon).

Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble.

This morning we are going to look at what Proverbs says about what we shouldn’t do and what we should do when it comes to our speech.

The Bad

It is unfortunate that many of the things we shouldn’t say aren’t discovered until after we hear ourselves say them. Proverbs gives us some good and general guidelines. Though there are many variations, here are some of the things we shouldn’t do.

Lie Proverbs 12:22 “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.” When we lie we not only pervert what is true, we distance ourselves from the Lord who is truth.

Solomon pointed out that when we tell the truth we are acting in accord with God’s character. God IS truth and He speaks truth. If we are going to follow Him, we should do the same. It is a good idea to tell the truth in everything. We all have a tendency to exaggerate a situation to make us look better. If we do that in little things, we will tend to do it in big things.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you strike up a conversation with someone about matters of faith. When you tell others about that conversation we all have a tendency to relate what we wish we had said rather than what we really said. It would be better to simply say, “I wish I had said . . . “rather than twist the truth (lie).

Proverbs 26:28 says “A lying tongue hates its victims, and flattering words cause ruin.” Those are strong words aren’t they? They are meant to be. When we lie to others we are showing disrespect. In fact we do them harm because we are leading them away from truth; away from the Lord of life.

Gossip Proverbs has a great deal to say about gossip. Gossip is when you tell the secrets of others (11:13); stir up trouble by planting seeds of discontent (16:28); or repeat rumors (18:8). A gossip separates friends and destroys reputations. We are told that the words of a gossip “sink deep into one’s heart”. In other words, even though the facts may be false, the damage goes deep. It is hard to ever see a person the same way again once that image (though false) of gossip has been placed in your head.

We need to face the fact that we love gossip! We love to hear the rumors. We want to know what is going on. We even like having a juicy tidbit that we can share that others don’t know. I guess it makes us feel like we are connected, important.

The Rabbis called gossiping or slander “a third tongue”, explaining: “it slays three persons: the speaker, the spoken to, and the spoken of”. And as a golden rule on avoiding being slain by this tongue as speaker or as spoken to, their advice cannot be bettered: “Let the honour of your neighbour be as dear to you as your own”

One author wrote,

Studies have shown that in passing along stories about others, we attach a contagious emotional aspect to the story. What does this mean? When others hear us spreading rumors, they immediately feel a certain emotion toward whomever the rumor is about. Later, when you go back and tell them it wasn’t true, or if they find out the rumor was a half-truth, the negative emotion toward that person still lingers. Damage is done that cannot be undone.

We can do a lot of damage to others by sharing things that should not be shared. When you hear gossip it would be beneficial for you to ask

• Do you personally know this to be true?

• Would you share this if the person was there with you?

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