Saturday, October 7, 2006

Elements of Wisdom - Fair speech (Watch what you say, you may have to eat your words)

Have you ever had a foot sandwich? You know, open mouth insert foot - I know I had, anyway here are some thoughts on speech and some verses to check out in the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 16:23The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.”

Proverbs instructs us about many things in regards to our speech. We begin by understanding that lying is something God absolutely hates.

Proverbs 12:22Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.”

We must never think that lying is ok. Sometimes the worse people to try helping are those who have outright lied so much that they start believing their own lies. Most of the time lying about a matter is worse than the matter itself, and so there is no need to lie. We must guard our speech in this area of honesty.

Proverbs 4:24Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.”

The idea of ‘froward’ (at least according to Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary) is that of ‘not willing to yield or comply with what is required’ or disobedience. He also used other words that I thought were uncommon but gets the point across: ‘ungovernable’ and ‘refractory’ and ‘peevish.’ When authority says to do something, a man or a woman with a forward mouth has no problem ‘mouthing off.’ Therefore it really is not hard to spot a ‘froward mouth.’ Another term in this verse is ‘perverse.’ The idea of perverse is one which is ‘crooked’ or ‘corrupt.’ We must guard our speech from deviousness. The Bible instructs us to ‘put it far from thee’ which means not to utilize such a speech, and not to hang around those who do speak in that manner.

If guarding our heart is important (and it is) so is guarding our mouth.

Proverbs 10 has a string of verses on this topic:

v.11 “The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.”

v.13 "In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found."

v.18 "He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool."

v. 20 “The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth.”

v.21 “The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.”

v. 32 “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.”

Proverbs 12:18There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.”

Someone said: ‘sticks and stones may hurt (or brake) my bones but names (or words) will never harm me.’ I really would like to think that statement to be true, but somehow, in my experience some of the most damaging things happen because of hurtful or 'hurt-filled' words. Now lest, I be accused of being ‘onion skinned’ I must say that it would take a whole lot of ‘words’ to get me upset. For the most part, I have even learned to laugh at some of the things said to me. BUT in all reality, some of the most harmful things are words that are said in spite and bitterness. Hateful words that cut can really do damage and poison the heart and it may even come from our own speech. And so it is so important to make sure we guard our mouths. In contrast to former is the latter part of the verse. The tounge of the wise is health. We can use our speech to build somebody up, instead of tearing them down. Our speech can be truthful, edifying, pure, non-injurious and we should always want to make sure that we are not offensive in speech. It truly takes great wisdom to say the right things in the right way, or maybe not saying anything at all could be a blessing in and of itself (10:19).

There is great wisdom in guarding our mouths. There are many other verses in Proverbs about this topic, but as usual please feel free to add your thoughts to this post via the comments section, you additions are greatly appreciated.

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