Many of our problems in life occur because we say the wrong thing, or we say it at the wrong time, or we say it in the wrong way. In fact, it has been shown that a thirty-second speech can damage a thirty-year career, a thirty-year marriage, or thirty years of reputation. Now, as Solomon wrote Proverbs, he was aware of the power of the tongue, and when we read his thoughts on this subject in Proverbs, we can find God’s wisdom in small doses telling us to either shut up, build up or speak up.
There are some verses, in plain English that warns us to be cautious about what we say and to never miss an opportunity to keep our mouths shut. In Prov. 17:9, 14, 27, “. . . he that repeateth a mat-ter separateth very friends . . . The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water . . . He that hath knowledge spareth his words . . .” Solomon goes on to state “He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace” (Prov. 11:12); and, “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth . . .” (Prov. 26:20-22). Thus, while certain thing are necessary for life: food, water, protection; some things are not necessary, such as stating out opinions on every subject or having the last word in every argument, or demanding our way in every discussion or defending ourselves from every criticism or drawing a line on every issue. Sometimes, we just need to keep our thoughts and words to ourselves.
Next, there are things that build us up. God hasn’t called us to take vows of silence like medieval monks. He gave us the re-markable capacity for human language because He wants us to build others up. In Prov. 10:11, 19, Solomon states, “The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life . . . he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Solomon goes on to state that tongues of the wise is health (Prov. 12:18), pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul and health to the bones (Prov. 16:23-24) and, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life . . . and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (Prov. 15:4, 23). Some-times, we need to take a train, track down someone, buy them a steak and encourage them with wise counsel. All people need wholesome words and by speaking that builds up, we will revive those who are dead in sin, we will comfort those who are in distress, by which, we can show the way to eternal life.
Then, Solomon also shows us that there are times when we need to speak up, such as Prov. 31:8-9, “Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” We can open our mouths on behalf of those who cannot speak such as a stranger, or orphan. And, we can open our mouths to speak about righteous living in all boldness, not caring for the harsh criticisms of wicked and unjust men.
These verses in Proverbs are the circuit breakers and surge protectors for the soul. The air around us is often static with anger, and our social atmospheres change as often as the weather in Missouri. So, we need to install some of today’s verses as spiritual circuit breakers, committing them to memory and to conscious thought. And in doing so, we will become more and more like Jesus, for no one ever spoke as He did. And I’ll tell you, the book of Proverbs describes, when describing the wise person, a pen portrait of our Lord Je-sus. May we all remember to know what to say and when to say it.