Proverbs Week 3: The Power of Words


10:18   He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, whoever spreads slander is a fool.

12:6     The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, the speech of the upright rescues them.

12:19   Truthful lips endure forever, a lying tongue lasts only a moment.

13:5     The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.

17:4     A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue.

17:7     Arrogant [a] lips are unsuited to a fool— how much worse lying lips to a ruler!

19:5     A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will not go free.

21:6     A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare. [a]

21:28   A false witness will perish, and whoever listens to him will be destroyed forever.

26:28   A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

30:6     Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.


11:12   A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.

11:13   A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.

16:28   A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.

17:19   He who loves a quarrel loves sin; he who builds a high gate invites destruction.

18:8     The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.

20:19   A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.

26:20   Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.

Talking too much:

10:8     The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.

10:19   When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.

12:18   Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

12:13   An evil man is trapped by his sinful talk, but a righteous man escapes trouble.

12:23   A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly.

13:3     He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.

15:28   The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.

18:2     A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.

18:21   The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Talking too soon:

17:28   Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.

18:13   He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame.

18:17   The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.

20:25   It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider his vows.

29:20   Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him.


7:21     With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk.

26:28   A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

28:23   He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.

29:5     Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet.


15:1     A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

25:15   Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.

26:21   As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.



The Weakness of Words

Words are no substitute for deeds

3:27-28            Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.  Do not say to your neighbor, "Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow"—when you now have it with you.

14:23   All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Words cannot alter facts

26:23-26 Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart. A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. His malice may be concealed by deception, but his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.

23:9     Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words.

22:12   The eyes of the LORD keep watch over knowledge, but he frustrates the words of the unfaithful.

27:1     Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.

Words cannot compel response

4:20-22            My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body.

5:1-2    My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.


Relevant New Testament passages:

Matthew 12:33-37 Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned

James 2:15-16 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

James 3:1-12 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.



Discussion question:  Why are our words so important?


Because God's words are important.  It is by words that God created the world (Gen. 1).  Christ sustains the universe with the power of his word (Heb 1:3).  Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of god (Deut. 8:3).


Discussion question:  What are the characteristics of God's word?


It is powerful.  God's word produces immediate results Gen. 1, Mark 4:13

It is perfect.  2 Sam 2:21 "the word of the LORD is flawless."

It is good.  "For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does" (Psalm 33:4)

As God's image bearers, our words were meant to be an image his words.  Just as God's words are true, our words were to be true.  Just as God's words are powerful, so our words were to be powerful.  Just as God's words are gracious, our words were to be gracious.  Of course, the Fall corrupted our words just like everything else.


Discussion question:  What harm can be done by our fallen words?


They can damage other people's reputations (17:14)

They can stir up dissension (16:28)

They can lead to unjust judgments (19:5)

They can wound people's feelings (12:18)

They can lead others astray (see the adulteress in Proverbs 7:13-21 or the wicked in Proverbs 1:8-19).

They can influence our actions (James 3:3-6)


Discussion question:  What is the righteous and wise way to use our words?


To speak the truth (13:5)

To rebuke, correct, and admonish (28:23)

To turn away wrath (15:1)


Discussion question:  Given our tendency to use words for evil, how can we tame our tongue?


Our words should be few (10:19, 12:23, 13:3, 15:28)

We should be slow to speak (18:13, Jas 1:19-20)

Our words should be honest (10:18, 16:13, 27:5)

Our words should be apt (15:23, 25:11, Matt. 7:6)


Discussion question:  How do we get to the root of the problem?


Matthew 12:33-37: "From the overflow of our heart the mouth speaks".  The problem is not just our careless tongue, but our evil heart.  If we lay hold of the one who "committed no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth" (1 Pet. 2:22), he will purify our hearts.  "whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)