Summary: #8 in Proverbs & Parables series Proverbs 16:20-24 The words we speak are a life and death issue. DRAMA: A GOOD WORD incorporated into sermon

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Words of Life

Proverbs 16

SCRIPTURE READING: Proverbs 16:20-24


According to some statistics I read, the average person spends one-fifth of his or her life talking. In fact, if all of our words were put into print, the result would be this: The words from a single day would fill a 50-page book. In a year’s time the average person’s words would fill 132 books of 200 pages each! Today in the Word, June 15, 1992.

Out of those 132 books, how many pages would be filled with words that are angry, carelessness, or hurtful? The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about the words we speak. In fact, Proverbs 18:21 says: The tongue has the power of life and death. What kind of Words would lead to death, you might ask. Proverbs gives some specific examples:

1. Words that lead to Death

The first thing we need to know about words that lead to death is that these are words without the spirit of God or the love of God in them. In the same way that wisdom can either come from God or from Satan, words also originate in Heaven or from Hell. Unfortunately, evil talk sometimes comes out of the mouths of God’s people. In fact, it is the way church people talk that often causes unbelievers to call them hypocrites. What kind of words lead to death?

Proverbs 12:22 gets specific: The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful. Lies are always words of death.


We now live in a society that excuses lying as acceptable, and sometimes even necessary. We are taught to lie so we won’t hurt someone’s feelings. Sometimes we lie in order to protect ourselves or to get ahead. We might even lie just to try to get others to like us more.

But no matter what the motive --- no matter how much we rationalize --- and no matter what Language we’re speaking --- a lie is a lie. Put your words to the truth test this week. Don’t excuse those little lies. Remember that God detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.

Proverbs 15:1 is one of the best-known Proverbs. It gives another description of words of death: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.


Angry, contentious words are definitely not of God. So why do angry words come from the mouths of God’s people? Why indeed! Arguments come from those who have no interest in reconciliation, and would rather stir up strife than settle it. In the church, and in the home, in school and the workplace, most disagreements can be settled with patience and conciliation. Arguing is COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE. Do you want to make enemies, or do you want to make progress? Ask yourself that the next time you feel like speaking harsh words.

Proverbs tells us another kind of talk that stirs up trouble: Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. Proverbs 26:20

In the New Testament, James also compared the tongue to a fire: The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. James 3:6


Gossip can destroy relationships like a fire can destroy a forest. Gossip is a simple thing with terrible consequences. The heart of gossip is to speak ill of someone behind his or her back. And the motive is always diminish them in the eyes of others.

Christians know gossip is wrong, so they sometimes become pretty sneaky. It’s possible to cast doubts on the other person’s motives without actually accusing them of anything. It’s possible to be sharing your own hurt feelings in a way that makes it obvious it was the fault of that other insensitive, mean-spirited person. It’s even possible to disguise gossip as a prayer request.

We can try to pretty it up, but that doesn’t change the fact that all gossip is death talk, pure and simple. Talking in a way that makes someone else look bad is a blotch on the name of the church and her Lord. Gossip never originates in the mind of God, and no matter how subtle you try to make it ---even if it is disguised as a prayer request --- it is still death talk.

We’re going to take a minute now to listen in on two conversations in a Beauty Shop. Now there’s nothing subtle about the gossip in the skit you’re about to see. Even though we won’t be able to translate it --- we think you’ll get the point.

SKIT: A Good Word

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