Proverbs 18

In A Word.

“Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction.” – Proverbs 18:20 NLT

Let’s face it, the tongue is the most powerful muscle in the human body. It’s relatively small and unseen most of the time, but it can really pack a punch when it comes to influence. Sometimes the human tongue seem to have a mind of its own. From it can come words that offend others and shock the one from whose mouth the words came. James, the half brother of Jesus, put had some disturbing insights into the tongue: “People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:7-10 NLT).

Of course, James is simply using the tongue as a symbol of our words or speech. And speech, like our conduct or behavior, is directly linked to our hearts. What comes out of our mouths is tied to the condition of our hearts. And the heart is simply another metaphor for the inner man or the soul. Jesus put it this way: “But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you” (Matthew 15:18-20 NLT). On another occasion, Jesus stated the relationship between the tongue and the heart this way: “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45 NLT). It all starts within. What’s inside has to come out, and it shows up in our actions, attitudes, and words. Solomon knew this all too well. In Proverbs 18, he seems to group a whole series of statements about words and speech together. He juxtaposes the difference between the words of a fool and those of a wise person. One simply wants to air their own opinion, regardless of its worth. The other speaks words that are profound and a source of satisfaction to others. The words of fools lead them into conflict and get them into trouble. They gossip and complain, more often than not, speaking before they have all the facts about a person or a matter. They offend friends and enemies alike. But the words of the wise satisfy like a good meal, the right words spoken at the right time bring satisfaction.

Our words are powerful. Our tongues are highly influential. As James said, with them we can praise God and then turn around and curse those made in the image of God. I love the advice Solomon gave in an earlier Proverb: “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut” (Proverbs 10:19 NLT). It would profitable for us to think before we speak. It would pay for us to consider the condition of our hearts before we open our mouths. And if we speak, we need to listen to what we say and examine the content. It will be a great barometer of the condition of our soul.

Father, the tongue can be hard to control. But while it can seem to have a mind of its own, it doesn’t. It simply reflects what is going on inside of us. It reveals the condition of our spiritual lives. It makes the inward man visible to the outside world. And in the course of doing so, it can do either tremendous good or a lot of damage. Continue to change my heart so that my words may be honoring to You and a blessing to those around me. May my words be wise and not worthless. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men