This week’s study of Proverbs 18 brings us multiple words of wisdom regarding how we use our words. How we speak is a huge part of our testimony in Christ and our words have the power to truly build up or ruin lives, ours and others’. Let’s dig into this week’s text and mine for helpful application for our lives today.
Proverbs 18:7 says, “A fool's mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.”
We surely can and do get into a lot of trouble simply by the words we say. We can be arrested, prosecuted, sued, fired, demoted simply due to words that we say. We can lose a close relationship or a great opportunity by the words we say.
Washington Irving (author-1783-1859) once said, “The tongue is the only tool that grows sharper with constant use”.
As Christians, we have to apply James 1:19 “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak”.
We need to really consider what we will say before we say it as our words do affect people and reflect our testimony of Christ.
Solomon continues the emphasis on our words in verse 8.
Proverbs 18:8 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.
Sin loves gossip. We have TV shows dedicated to it. We as a culture are constantly plugged into social media and what’s trending in many ways to keep up on the latest gossip. We can also struggle to want to hear gossip or to speak gossip to feel in the know or to look important. Scripture warns against any kind of gossip (Romans 1:29; 2 Corinthians 12:20; 1 Timothy 5:13). In this we gain insight that gossip is not a part of God, his word, his image, his plan, his salvation, and his people.
I like to define gossip as anything someone might share about another that makes the listener have a tainted or lesser view of that person. Let me show you how much this doesn’t fit into the vocabulary of a Christian.
1. Cutting, degrading, gossip or slander is never a part of the dialogue between the Trinity.
All speech between Father, Son, and Spirit about the Christian is overflowing with active love (1 John 4:16). The Spirit is praying for you (Romans 8:26). The Son is your priest (Hebrews 8:1), cleanser (Hebrews 10:22), advocate (Hebrews 10:20), and the one who subdues your true enemies (Hebrews 10:13). The Father loves you with the same love with which he loves the Son (John 17:23). Never do we see the Godhead model any kind of cutting remarks about the body of Christ.
2. Slander looks to separate not unite.
Gossip and slander are built on the attitude “We are different and separate therefore, I am going to tear you down.”
Christianity is built on the understanding in Christ that, “We were different, but now we are intimately and eternally united before the cross. I am the same as you.”
The Son makes this possible by taking on human flesh,
saying “I will dwell in the mud with you” (John 1:14),
saying “I will become nothing and die with you” (Philippians 2:7–8),
saying, “I can totally sympathize with you” (Hebrews 4:15).
Of course, Christ is not sinful. But that is what makes the incarnation and his penal substitution so glorious — that God created commonality between us and him “while we were enemies” (Romans 5:10) — not only becoming man, but in taking the humiliation and mockery of his fellow man (Luke 22:63). Realize: We don’t do this in our flesh! Even one of Jesus’ closest friends (Peter) trades Jesus’ dignity to warm himself with an in-crowd around a fire (John 18:17–18). We must depend on Jesus to sanctify our sinful longings so that we speak what is honoring to God and what builds others up.
We also hear Solomon bring forth counsel in this proverb that centers around being slow to speak and quick to listen.
Proverbs 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Proverbs 18:13 If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
Patience is a fruit of the spirit. We must be patient with others and honor them by listening well. When we jump in and start talking before we have heard the whole story we can be guilty of giving bad advice. Or in our pride we can be guilty of not caring about what another has to say, but only what we have to say. Solomon says this is foolish. But how often are we guilty of it?
We must heed the words of scripture and practice listening and purposely being slow to speak. This is a way to walk in this life in humility. This is a way to honor others and not to put your foot in your mouth.
Finally, Solomon points out what our words produce. Do your words build others up or tear them down?
Do they make much of Christ or honor yourself? Listen to Solomon’s counsel…
Proverbs 18:20 From the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.
Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue. That is a weighty statement. We must practice speech that pushes others towards Christ and not towards the flesh or self. We must “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ (Hebrews 3:13). He is saying, is TODAY HAPPENING? YES! Then encourage one another.
He is saying, don’t be the body of Christ that tries to endure the war that rages around us without encouraging one another. For the body, it’s like breathing. Don’t try to live today without encouraging!
The problem is: this is the natural tendency of our flesh. The sin we are at war with wants to discourage others. It desires self-exaltation more than anything. So, it relishes focusing on others’ weaknesses, mistakes and flaws. This is done out of arrogance or envy and pride. It is in our arrogance that we are often guilty of thinking or saying or interpreting negative interpretations or observations of others.
Instead, let us outdo one another in showing honor. Let us build up and not tear down. Let the fruit of our lips be life-giving and not life-stealing. I pray that you take today’s going deeper not just to heart, but to action. This is the kind of thing you must really stop and consider, how am I doing? What is my habit or tendency in this area? I pray that we would make war with our flesh and truly consider how to make the most of our words. To listen better and not just listen, but really listen.
Let us mature in these things as we look to make much of Christ our Lord and be a joy to be around people as they discover that their name is safe in your mouth. That you are trustworthy and one who encourages instead of tears down.