Words of the Wise (Pt.3)

“An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,
    but the righteous escapes from trouble.” 

Prov. 12:13    

If there’s one lesson that politicians are unquestionably qualified to teach us, it would be this–our words have consequences. Take the following example from the life of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown: 

Ouch. Even though Brown’s two-facedness is inexcusable, I can’t help but feel compassion for him in this situation. Can you sympathize with him as well? Maybe your words have never been recorded and replayed for the world to hear, but you probably know what it’s like to speak before an unintended audience. When we decide to talk badly about another, our usual strategy involves checking to see who’s listening before we begin talking, but sometimes, we get the two actions reversed. And when we do, it’s never a good thing. Somehow, it’s so much more comfortable to talk about someone behind her back when she’s not actually right behind your own back!

In our series on the words of the wise, we’ve learned that our speech is important because it identifies our origin and it reveals our hearts. Additionally, the woman of wisdom understands that her words matter because they have eternal consequences. Proverbs 18:21a teaches that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” How serious is our speech? According to the Bible, it’s a life and death matter!

Have you ever heard someone say, “I wish I had a tape recorder, so you could hear yourself”? For some reason the threat of having our words forever preserved often provides us with a much-needed incentive to control our speech. Think about it for a moment. How differently would you speak if you knew that, like Gordon Brown, a microphone was transmitting your every word for any and all to hear?

Most of us probably already know this truth, but we often live as though we’re entirely unaware of it—Our every word is being recorded. Jesus Himself made this fact perfectly clear:

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matt. 12:34b-37)

Every careless word. Give account. Justified. Condemned. Death. Life. Eternal consequences.

For women accustomed to spewing out thousands of words each day, such thoughts should tighten even the loosest of lips. It is said that a woman once told the well-known evangelist John Wesley, “My talent is to speak my mind.” Wesley wisely replied, “Woman, God wouldn’t care a bit if you would bury that talent.” We would do well to follow Wesley’s advice and seek God’s help in laying our untamed tongues to rest.

The grave consequences of our unwise speech should act as spotlights drawing our attention not to a need to clean up our act, but to our need for a Savior who acts on our behalf. We are women of unclean lips in desperate need of the cleansing blood of the One who silently bore the punishment for every one of our careless words (Is. 53:7). Our words are powerful, yes, but Christ’s grace is infinitely more so. As we seek victory in our battle against the untamable tongue, may we rely fully upon the strength of Jesus Christ, who alone has the words of eternal life (John 6:68).

Here’s today’s proverb:    

“My son, do not lose sight of these—
   keep sound wisdom and discretion,
and they will be life for your soul
   and adornment for your neck.”

Proverbs 3:21-22

Illustration: Billy Alexander