James 3 talks about the importance of how we use our tongues as well as the challenges and benefits of controlling our tongues. Matthew 12:33-37 reinforces this point, speaking of the quality of fruit reflecting on the tree from which it comes. Likewise, James 3 describes the impossibility of a fountain producing both good and bitter water. Both passages are emphasizing the heart and that we will be held accountable for what comes from our mouths.
Using Words for Evil or for Good
Proverbs 6:16-19 describes lying tongues, false witness, and sowing discord as things the Lord views as abomination, and all of these proceed from our mouths. Proverbs 12:18 describes our mouths as weapons. Chapter 18:6-7 describes words that cause strife and earn punishment. Our words can be a snare, and Proverbs 11:9 describes a tongue that destroys our neighbors. Chapter 16:27-28 sounds similar to James speaking of our tongues as burning fires, and Proverbs 26:20 tells us that whispers and rumors are kindling to arguments. Finally, chapter 26:22 describes these rumors as tempting morsels that will go straight to our hearts. The words linger and bring us down when they are used for sinful purposes.
Proverbs 12:18 and 12:25 describe wise words as healing and relief to those who are burdened. Proverbs 16:24 also describes how words can be used for healing, and chapter 11:9 tells us that righteous words build up and deliver. Proverbs 10:11 describes good words as a fountain of life. Our words can bring others to Christ if we use our mouths correctly. Finally, Proverbs 15:4 describes our tongues as potential trees of life. Our words can help us and others gain access to Heaven and the Tree of Life.
Wisely Using Our Tongues
In this effort, we should use honest words. Returning to Proverbs 6:16-19, these abominations directly involve dishonesty. A lying tongue, sowing doubt and discord, bearing false witness. In contrast, Proverbs 16:13 speaks of loving those who speak what is right. Wisdom uses the tongue for good, and honesty is a good place to start.
Calming words appear in Proverbs 15:1 as a means of wisely turning away wrath. Proverbs 17:27 describes one who controls his words as wise. This is someone who is not easily inflamed to a poorly considered response. He is calm and collected. Proverbs 18:13 warns us against giving an answer before we hear the whole story. Be slow to speak and swift to hear according to James 3. Finally, our words should be used appropriately. Proverbs 15:23 tells us we have the ability to share joy in what I say and how I say it. Chapter 25:11 describes our words as golden apples when spoken wisely and appropriately.
However, Proverbs 14:23 reminds us that we have to have more than words. Our actions have to reflect what we say. Proverbs 10:19-20 reminds us to live what we profess. We have to both say the right things and do the right things. In conclusion, Proverbs 18:21 reminds us that our tongues can bring both life and death. What is it you and I are spreading with our words? Do we encourage others to life, or are we condemning ourselves and others to death? Only I can choose how I will use my tongue, and only I will be held responsible for what comes from it.
lesson by Tim Smelser