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TEXT: Proverbs 18:21
SUBJECT: Proverbs #9: The Importance of Speech
THE IMPORTANCE OF SPEECH.
The significance of your speech is beyond exaggeration. To this our verse ably testifies, "Life and death are in the power of the tongue". To marshall all the arguments by way of proof would be tedious in the extreme, and therefore, I will adopt a simpler method, and demonstrate--very briefly--to whom your speech is so important.
Your speech, firstly, is important to you.
What you say--to some extent at least--corresponds to what you are. If, for example, your neighbor lies with every breath, would you assume that he is honest? Obviously not. For his constant lying proves beyond debate that he is dishonest.
This conclusion, however, rests not simply on human reason, but on Divine Revelation. Our Lord put it simply, "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks".
If therefore, you are concerned about yourself--your soul or heart--then you must conclude that your speech (which is simply an expression thereof) is very important to you.
Your speech, secondly, is important to your family.
Your conversation affects those who hear it. "A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit." (15:4). But ordinarily, you speak more to your family than others. Therefore, your speech will powerfully influence them--for good or evil.
Thus a word of exhortation is appropriate:
A word to husbands/wives. Marital intimacy is wonderful. "The two, said God, "shall become one flesh". But that relationship does not give you the right to share everything which comes into your mind. For example, the husband who gossips to his wife is guilty of two wrongs:
He directly sins against her. For he poisons her mind.
He indirectly sins against her. For gossip, once heard, is nearly impossible to suppress.
A word to parents. Your evil speech is horribly detrimental to your children. It will necessarily result in the worst consequences, such as:
It will set a bad example for them to follow.
It will provoke them to wrath. For why, afterall, should they be punished for tattling on each other, it you gossip about everyone else?
It will lower their esteem and respect for you. Which in turn will lead to greater disobedience.
Your speech, thirdly, is important to your church.
The church is sometimes likened to a human body. Solomon, picking up this metaphor, writes most interestingly. 12:18, "There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health."
Bad speech in the church, therefore, mutilates the body of Christ. This language, though strong, is not excessive. For Paul desribes ecclesiastical gossip thusly, "But if you bite and devour one another, beware, lest you be consumed by one another!" (Galatians 5:15). It brings to mind a man feeding on his own flesh. Or to use the human proverb, "Cutting off his nose to spite his face".
Good speech, on the other hand, greatly promotes the health of the body. It instructs the ignorant, encourages the depressed, corrects the erring, cultivates general piety, and prepares the church to come into the presence of God.
Your speech, fourthly, is important to your society.
"By the blessing of the upright, the city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked" (11:11).
This is so obvious, that it requires but little demonstration.
People have always cursed. But in the 1960-present, when television, movies, and books have became largely uncensored, the level of vulgarity has greatly risen.
But you say, "What I see and hear does not affect me." If that is true, please explain one thing to me. Why do companies spend billions of dollars to advervise on television? Is it because they are philanthropists? No. They advertise because they know very well that what you see and hear greatly influences what you do.
Or to put it as did the Apostle, "Evil communication corrupts good morals".
Likewise, good words positively influence a people. On December 7, 1941, the American public was near hysteria. Two great Imperial Forces, Germany and Japan, were in league against the U.S. Much of the Pacific fleet was at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. Voices of panic and surrender were raised. But then, the incomparable communicator came on the radio and brought a nation to itself with those immortal words, "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself."
Your speech, ultimately, is important to God.
The mere volume of Scripture devoted to the subject suggests a much.
It is mentioned over sixty times in this book alone.
We find extensive teaching in every part of the Bible:
The Law. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."
The Psalms, "Set a guard, O LORD, upon my lips".
The Prophets, "Then they who feared the LORD spoke often one to another, and the LORD hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him..."
Our Lord constantly addressed the subject, "How can you, being evil, speak good things?..."With their lips, this people draw near me...and so on."
The Apostles followed suit, Ephesians 4:29.
If, therefore, so vast a portion of Scripture is dedicated to the subject of speech, then it necessarily follows that the way you talk of of the greatest interest to God.
Your present standing before God assumes as much, James 1:26 is very plain, "If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, that one's religion is useless."
The Day of Judgment promises the same. "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good thingss, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified and by your words, you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:35-37).
Your speech, therefore, is important to yourself, your family, church, society, and God. Hence, you must take its regulation with the utmost seriousness. What God said about His Law can be applied here, "It is no vain thing, for it is your life."
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF GOOD SPEECH.
All good speech is True.
The Scripture uniformly condemns every sort of lying. Obvious deceit is abhorred by every Christian. But some lies are rather subtle. These, alas, are too often practiced, and even condoned among the People of God. Permit me, please, to offer some examples:
Unfounded threats. On this point, parents constantly lie to their children. "If you do that again, you'll get a spanking". The child does it again, and what happens? "I said, if you do that again, you'll get a spanking......;and on and on and on it goes...
Stereotyping. To stereotype means to fit every individual of a group into one mold. "All ------'s are -----."
Talebearing. (give meaning, derivation, why it is included) It is condemned in the strongest manner. (11:13).
Ignorant criticism. 18:13.
Listening to gossip, 17:4
All good speech is proper. 25:11
Is it the right time?
Is it the right tone of voice? (15:1)
"Why are you late?" v. "WHY ARE YOU LATE?!!!!!"
Am I the right person?
Is it my business? 26:17
All good speech is thoughtful, 15:28, 17:27-28, 29:20 Cf. James "Slow to speak".
All good speech is aimed at the welfare of the hearer and the glory of God. 27:17.
HOW TO IMPROVE.
Remember that you are accountable for what you say.
Remember the great power of what you say.
Remember that everything need not be said. 17:9, 30:10.
Avoid, whenever possible, evil speakers, 20:19
Learn to be quiet. 10:19
Beg God for grace, for: No man is able by himself to control his speech (James 3:8). But God can (16:1). Therefore, ask constantly, "LORD, set a guard upon my lips."
Avoid vain conversations. (26:4,5).
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