So many books have been written on how to speak that is far past time for a new slate of books to to help people learn to be quiet. There is no place that this applies more than in our current political / social-networked / sound-bite addicted culture. For speeches and conversations to bear fruit they need to be pruned more often.
And yet is more than politicians, professors, and pastors (this one included) who need to be careful with their words. In Proverbs, King Solomon speaks to us from centuries past that watching our words is one of the wise things to do.
I can only imagine as King what all Solomon must have seen regarding the character of those around him! How ironic what President Obama has had to face this week in regards to a General who was not more careful with his words. But neither the general or the president have a monopoly on putting their foot in it! The Wise Thing is always to begin where Wisdom begins – with giving God priority in our lives.
It might seem odd to begin with Ephesians to talk about Proverbs but it seemed right that we consider the example of Jesus' life AND that God does not leave us on our own to work at being wise. When we chose God's way – to follow after Jesus – Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit is sent to us, to live in us and to be part of this journey – to live out the Wise Thing. Paul makes it clear – our words are part of this way of wisdom.
Pastor Mark Copeland notes that in Proverbs, Solomon identifies there is Constructive Speech and Destructive Speech. Proverbs 11:11 GW notes that “With the blessing of decent people a city is raised up, but by the words of wicked people, it is torn down.” When we Walk Wisely, our words make a difference.
It has been said that to teach people the difference between counterfeit bills and the real thing, the Treasury Department doesn't have their people study counterfeits. They study the real thing so intimately that they can spot a counterfeit immediately. This is my approach. While Solomon addresses the Destructive, I want to focus on the Constructive. And it starts with...
GOOD WORDS. Simply put Solomon says, “The mouth of a righteous person is a fountain of life, but the mouths of wicked people conceal violence. (Proverbs 10:11 GW).” To walk wisely, is to be life giving in your words and how you speak. It only reveals an integrity of character which has been OR is being transformed. Proverbs 16:24 describes the words as pleasant - “like a honeycomb” and in Proverbs 12:25 as comforting. This kind of speech reveals the heart of the speaker.
But it doesn't stop there as the wise person uses TIMELY WORDS. It doesn't get more clear than Proverbs 15:23 to make the point that “Giving the right answer at the right time makes everyone feel happy (Proverbs 15:23)” There is truly a time for everything but everything needs to be in the right time. Solomon goes on to note in verse 28 that, “Good people think before they answer, but the wicked speak evil without ever thinking.” (15:28 CEV). You can speak truth at any time and it is still truth but that doesn't mean it is the right time or that it will be heard! At least 1 dating relationship ended from truth at the wrong time,m and I've continued to learned as a husband, a parent and as a person, that TIMELY WORDS are key in walking wisely.
Good words spoken at the right time get us so far and this speech benefits all around but it is CONTROLLED WORDS which set apart our lives.
I'm sure Solomon heard from many in his group of advisers and from numerous lobbying groups. It must have been experience after experience which taught him the importance of Controlling the words we use and how much. In Proverbs 13:2-3 he tells us...
“You will be well rewarded for saying something kind, but all some people think about is how to be cruel and mean. Keep what you know to yourself, and you will be safe; talk too much, and you are done for. (CEV)”
Controlling our words enhances our relationships and protects our soul. It also protects our bodies from violence as this Proverb notes...
A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up. Words of wisdom come from the wise, but fools speak foolishness. (Proverbs 15:1-2 CEV)
And foolish words are most often Destructive Words. Solomon notes 4 above all others. Namely, 1) Lying, 2) Flattery, 3) Gossip and 4) Cursing (or slander). Search out the Proverbs and you'll see these brought out but they all reveal a selfish bent and Solomon notes - “The food you get by cheating may taste delicious, but it turns to gravel. (Proverbs 20:17 CEV)”
In his journals, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement tells of the persecution many early Methodists experienced. Why? Because through the Holy Spirit in the lives of people willing to follow Jesus, people were becoming more like Jesus! On one occasion, Wesley noted that a group of Methodists had been tied up, thrown into a wagon and taken to a judge. The judge asked the mob, “What are the charges?” No one had thought about that before coming! The one man spoke up and said, “Please sir, they converted my wife. Before she went amongst them she had such a tongue! But now she is a quiet as a lamb.” With that, the judge said, “Take them back and let them convert all the scoundrels in the parish!”
This is what it means to become disciples! When a person turns from living in rebellion against God, admits their mistakes and follows Jesus, Something is different! “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:6 NASB).” Do you truly understand the importance and wisdom of the right kind of speech? As we seek to walk wisely this week, make note of your words and all they show you about you.