The Proverbial Tongue

“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)

The book of Proverbs has much wise counsel concerning the use of the tongue. It contains, for example, no less than 27 sober warnings against speaking lies! There are also at least eight condemnations of gossiping. For example: “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter” (11:13).

Then there are warnings against using the tongue to criticize, or to slander, or to hurt. A good example is in 12:18: “There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health,” and also in 18:8: “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”

Too much talking is also dangerous, as our text for the day points out, for it often results in sin. In this connection, one of the most picturesque proverbs is the following: “A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike” (27:15). The virtues of silence are graphically pointed out in 17:27-28: “He that hath knowledge spareth his words: . . . Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”

Similarly, there are many promised blessings to those who speak carefully and graciously: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (25:11). “The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning” (16:21). “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life” (15:4). “The tongue of the just is as choice silver” (10:20). “A soft answer turneth away wrath” (15:1). “A word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (15:23).

May we, indeed, learn to make our speech like choice silver, apples of gold, and a tree of life! HMM