Proverbs 12:18

There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.


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Here is a precious and powerful proverb, explaining how you can be a great danger or benefit to others. Your speech can cause more trouble or good, more pain or profit, than any other part of you. Wise men learn to rule their tongue and words to only help others.

When you end a conversation, do others bleed or grow? Do others love talking with you, because it is pleasant and profitable? Or do they avoid you, because they fear harsh and painful words? Do others leave you bleeding? Do some of them encourage and help you? A man’s words reveal his heart (Pr 10:20; Matt 12:34-37). Wise men teach their own mouths (Pr 16:23), and they avoid the swords of others (Pr 9:7-8; 16:27; 21:19; 23:9).

Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Pr 18:21). You can cut a person with your words, like the piercings of a sword, or you can heal and nurture him with kind and helpful words. Which are you best at? Which are you known for? Which do you want for your speech? Your number of close friends truly reveals your kind of speech (Pr 18:24).

The tongue is an unruly evil; it is a world of iniquity; it defiles the whole body; it sets on fire the course of nature; it is a fire from hell; it is full of deadly poison. Wild animals can be tamed and trained, but the tongue can never be tamed. If it could be tamed, you would be perfect. God ignores modern self-esteem and condemns your tongue (James 3:1-12).

There are two kinds of persons and speech. Some people only know harsh words, while others are generally or always gracious. Cutting and unkind speech betrays a bitter and hateful heart. Gentle and kind words reveal a happy and loving heart. Speech can be destructive, or it can be healthful. There are no other options. Your words identify you.

Christians should always speak graciously, seasoned throughout with kind correction and wise suggestions (Col 4:6). This blend of overall graciousness and instruction is how we speak to please God. Biting criticism, harshness, and sarcasm outside this balance are wrong (Eph 4:31-32). You should speak to others, as you want God to speak to you.

Your speech should be a tree of life to others (Pr 15:4), and it should be appreciated for its sweetness and health (Pr 16:24) and beauty (Pr 25:11). If you have few friends and family members who seek you out for conversation, you need to examine your speech. The rule does not lie. If you have few close friends, then you must be verbally offensive.

Backbiting, slandering, whispering, and talebearing, which create deep piercing wounds, should never be part of your speech, as they prove an unfaithful spirit (Pr 18:8; 26:22). If you criticize others to a person, that person safely assumes you will criticize him to them. And no man wants to be the object of gossip, so he avoids you. Start saying good, kind, and thankful things about all others, and you will find men wanting to be your friends.

Jesus said harsh speech could be murder (Matt 5:21-22). Anger and name calling without very valid reasons for holy purposes are violations of the sixth commandment. Foolish and unlearned questions, debate, railing, reviling, and answering again are all sins (II Tim 2:23; Rom 1:29; I Pet 3:9; Titus 2:9). The holy God of heaven expects men to always speak respectfully to employers and honorably to their wives (I Tim 6:1-2; I Pet 3:7).

Good speech is at the right time (Pr 15:23), with gracious and acceptable words (Pr 10:32; 15:1; 25:11). Such speech causes pleasure so that men want to kiss the speaker on the lips, and kings want him as a close friend (Pr 24:26; 16:13; 22:11). Be thoughtful to speak (Jas 1:19), search out good words (Pr 15:28), and say them carefully (Pr 17:27-28). To limit your risk, be faster to hear and slower to speak to reduce your words (Pr 10:19).

The Lord Jesus Christ could verbally destroy Pharisees and other fools of His day with His learned tongue (Matt 7:28-29; 21:27; 22:46), and sometimes it was appropriate for Him to shut their mouths in order to teach the simple (Pr 21:11; 26:5). But He generally chose gracious speech that amazed His hearers (Ps 45:2; Luke 4:22; Tit 2:8). If you want to be wise, instead of wearing a WWJD bracelet, talk the rest of this day as the Lord did.