Proverbs 10:31

The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom: but the froward tongue shall be cut out.

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Your future depends on your mouth and tongue. Can you learn to control your speech to teach others, or are you doomed to die a failure and loser? Good men use their mouths carefully – they only say wise things to help. Wicked men wag their tongues foolishly and perversely – they harm others. God will judge them harshly for their great sin.

Here is a typical proverb with several figures of speech. How does the mouth bring forth wisdom? It forms words that are wise speech. Mouth here is a metonym for talking, in which the means of talking is substituted for the talking itself. Who are the just? They are God’s righteous children, who are fair and right in their actions and wise in their words.

How can you learn to speak wisdom better? You can compliment, praise, and thank those who deserve it. You can comfort, encourage, and motivate those who are cast down. You can correct, teach, and warn the unruly. You can bless, exalt, and worship the Lord out loud. You can give the certain words of truth to those asking questions (Pr 22:17-21).

There is a secret to speaking wise words – they must first be in your heart. Whatever your heart is full of is what will come out (Matt 12:34-35). What is in the vault of your heart? If you think wisely about persons and things, you will speak wisely about them. But if you have a wicked heart that surmises evil, you will have perverse and wicked speech.

What is a froward tongue? It is perverse speech. Tongue here is a metonym for talking, in which the means of talking is substituted for talking. What men have froward tongues? Wicked men! There are missing words, called an ellipsis, in the second clause, seen by contrast with the first clause. Just men speak wisely; wicked men speak frowardly.

What is froward speech? Froward is an adjective meaning, “Disposed to go counter to what is demanded or what is reasonable; perverse, difficult to deal with, and hard to please.” Such men are obnoxious, and such women are odious; the earth cannot bear either. You have heard such speech before. Are you ever guilty of such speech? Men (or women) with evil hearts cannot talk in an acceptable way; they are perverse (Pr 10:32).

They are critical, extreme, harsh, negative, sarcastic, and unthankful. They love to complain, backbite, slander, whisper, jest, tattle, and whine. They are known for foolish talking, filthy speech, worldly subjects, joking, and prating – babbling on and on about nothing. They irritate and frustrate most everyone, because they seldom say anything constructive or wise, yet they can seldom stop talking. They are obnoxious and odious.

The proverb teaches more. It says the froward tongue will be cut out. Cutting out a tongue may sound cruel and harsh, but God chose to declare His seriousness. God and good men will judge those that will not speak wisely or acceptably. God will judge them in this life and the next, and good men will reject them. Since the proverb has two parallel clauses, it also implies God and good men will bless the just man for his speech.

Consider the proverb with metonyms replaced and ellipses supplied. A just man will be blessed for speaking acceptable and profitable words, but a wicked man will be destroyed for speaking perverse and wrong words. The difference is significant. Your future depends on your speech. Jesus said you will be judged by your words (Matt 12:36-37).

Reader, consider your speech. The terrible consequences of froward speech are great. Death and life are in the power of your tongue (Pr 18:21). Others are discouraged and hurt when you talk frowardly, and the true God of heaven will punish you for talking that way to them. If you cannot say anything wise, then keep your mouth closed. Use your precious gift of speech to build others up with kind and wise words that glorify God.