Have you ever “put your foot in your mouth”?  Ever wanted to take back something as soon as you said it?  Human speech is helpful, but it can also be destructive.  We must carefully weigh our words since we will be judged by them (Matt. 12:36).  However, controlling our tongue is a very difficult job and should not be ignored or taken lightly (James 3:5-12).  In the list of things the Lord hates in Prov. 6:16-19, at least three of the seven things listed involve the misuse of the tongue.  “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Prov. 18:21).

The Power Of Words

Words penetrate.  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”  That is not true.  Words can, and often do hurt.  But is also true that words can offer encouragement, instruction and provide real help in difficult times.  Beliefs and convictions are formed by words, and these will either destroy a man, or be the making of him (Prov. 11:9; 10:21).

Words spread.  They implant ideas in our minds, their effects branch out for good or for evil.  “A worthless man’s speech is like a scorching fire.  A dishonest man spreads strife, a whisperer separates close friends” (Prov. 16:27-28).  The worthless person “goes about with crooked speech, winks his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord” (Prov. 6:12-14).  The evil man is trapped by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous man escapes from trouble, and from the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him (Prov. 12:13-14).

The Weakness Of Words

Another familiar saying is, “Talk is cheap!”  Words are not a substitute for deeds.  “In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Prov. 14:23).  Words cannot change facts.  The greatest of charm has no chance against the facts it tries to disguise (Prov. 26:23-28).  This principle is the heart of hypocrisy—a glittering exterior often hides the reality within.  Within the heart of this person are “seven abominations” (countless wickedness).  Hatred is often concealed with deceit.  Sooner or later, that hatred will find its expression in some vicious act.

Words cannot force a response.  “By mere words a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not respond” (Prov. 29:19).  We have a responsibility to listen as we search for wisdom (Prov. 2:1-5).  Words of wisdom have their proper effect upon the one who inclines himself to know them.  On the other hand, evil words have the same consequence.  “An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue” (Prov. 17:4).