There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Pro 12:18
The point of this Proverbs is that words are powerful for good or for evil, for life or death. Words kill, they heal so choose your words carefully and always think before you speak. This proverb promotes thoughtful speech by contrasting the damage done by thoughtless speech, by comparing the damage done by thoughtless speech to the physical damage done by a lethal sword and by contrasting it with thoughtful speech that brings inner healing.
You know there is a lot of American idioms that grow out of this proverb. Have you ever said anything like, “His words went right through me,”? or have you ever heard this idiom, “his words just killed me.” Well, all those grow out of this proverb, that thoughtless speech has the same effect as the thrust of a sword on a person, it can kill. But thoughtful speech, governed by the Word of God, can bring healing.
The tongue of a wise person is a remedy. His words bring reconciliation to conflicts between people. His words, when governed by the word of God sooth the hurt inflicted by thoughtless speech and cures the fatal wounds of the sword of the tongue.
A wise man’s speech heals in that he can remove confusion, he can give direction, and correction, and hope by what he says to people who are being cut asunder by all kinds of words of people around them.
And he does that not because he is eloquent, not because he is astute, not because he is empathetic, but because his tongue, as we’ve seen over and over again, is governed by the word of God, it is the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, that heals what the sword of thoughtless speech destroys.
The contrast here is between the one who speaks rashly and the wise person. Now, bear in mind, anybody can speak carelessly, rashly and thoughtlessly. And Christians are also often guilty whenever we allow our emotions, rather than the wisdom that fills our hearts and defines our character, to control our tongue.
Christians can do it. It is a complete contradiction to everything we are. There is no excuse for it. The wisdom of God fills your heart and defines your character. And so how can such a person like that ever speak thoughtlessly and stab somebody with his speech whenever he doesn’t think before he speaks? Whenever he lets his emotions come out and he expresses his emotions rather than the word of God that fills his heart. So understand how important it is to think before you speak.
I mean it is so obvious that is true. And we say it so many times and yet how many times do we fail to obey it.
Bite your tongue.
People say,” I always say what I think,” as if that is a good quality, that is a terrible quality. I wouldn’t admit it to anybody. In fact, I would confess it before God. And also, somebody who always speaks what is on his mind and on his emotions is somebody who is a slave to his emotions. I feel sorry for the poor person. Even if what you say is right, even if what you say is true, there are sometimes, you’re just going to keep your mouth closed.
You’re going to ask yourself, now how does this good or right statement, how is it going to effect this person, the words that I use. Is this the opportune time to tell this person the truth?
I’m not telling you to compromise. I’m not telling you ever to compromise or negotiate with the truth, but I am saying, think. We must think, I’m telling myself as well as you, we must think before we speak. What is the best way to express this, so that this person knows what is on my heart? Is this person ready to hear what I have to say?
And a lot of times, we don’t mean anything by it. It’s just off the cuff quick response that cuts the other person to the very heart. And that person is left bleeding all over as we walk away happy not even knowing we just stabbed them with a sword. So, don’t let your emotions control you.
The wise person is not primarily interested in winning debates. You know it is pretty easy to win debates these days if you know what you’re talking about. ‘Cuz most people don’t know what they are talking about. And it is not that hard to win a debate with an unbeliever or a skeptic, or a cynic.
The wise person is not primarily…and sometimes you have to win debates, I’m not saying…Paul debated often, but the wise person is not primarily interested in winning debates. And he avoids speech that creates bitterness and erects barriers between himself and people to whom he is speaking.
That is why we cannot separate defending the faith from sharing the faith. We cannot separate apologetics from evangelism. When we defend the faith when it is under attack, and we want to make sure that the person who is a critic of Christianity, is shown that what he is saying is wrong, our purpose is not to defeat him in argument, our purpose is to convert him. We want to explain to him as lovingly as we possibly can why he is wrong, why his criticisms of the Christian faith are not true, we do want to refute him but not so we can walk away and brag on ourselves or just whip this guy.
But we want to refute him and then say, “Here’s what the bible says is true” and urge him to believe it.
I want you to turn with me to James chapter 3 since we are talking about the tongue. Everybody turn to James 3, I want to read 18 verses without making much comment on them.
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.
See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. -James 3:1-18
Pretty convincing don’t you think? No one can control your tongue, except for God. He is the only one. And he has made you a new creature in Christ. He’s changed your heart. He’s made you a fresh fountain, He’s removed the corruption and whenever we speak rashly, irresponsibly, murderously, with our tongue as a sword killing, it is completely unnatural, it’s completely irrational. There is absolutely no excuse for us, that is the point. How can the same fountain produce freshwater and salt? I mean, it is just inconceivable. It is irrational to think such a thing. So whenever we speak rashly, and kill people with our words understand that it’s completely irrational, unnatural, a total contradiction of everything that God has made you to be and me to be, and whenever we realize it afterwards we should fall on our faces and cry out to God to forgive us for such stupidity and such wickedness. And then once we realize it we should go to the person who we killed by our sword and try to heal him by our godly words.
Listen to the rest of Dr. Morecraft’s sermon here.
Honorable Language, Peaceful Siblings, Gracious Wives
Gossip: The Plague of the Church
Raising Maidens of Virtue: A Study of Feminine Loveliness for Mothers and Daughters
A Woman’s Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything