Hung by the Tongue

The purpose of the book of Proverbs can be found in the first chapter, the first three verses: to know wisdom and instruction, discern sayings of understanding, and receive instruction in wise behavior. Proverbs are sayings taken from everyday life and serve as practical guidelines for successful living. Here, that successful life depends on a little thing called the tongue.

Death and life. Usually we say life and death. But here God chose death before life. Why? I believe it is because we are naturally born in a fallen, sinful state with a tongue that is “restless, evil, and full of deadly poison (Jas.3:8)

Death is defined as something that “ruins, kills, and destroys.” Can our tongue really do that? Absolutely! Perhaps that is why the Bible says that the tongue is a sword (Ps.64:3). It in inherently sinful. Just listen to how the scriptures describe it:

  • A perverted tongue falls into evil (Pro.17:20)
  • A lying tongue is the pursuit of death (Pro.17:20)
  • A backbiting tongue brings anger (Pro.25:23) and
  • The tongue is an out of control flame (Jas.3:3-6)

(See WORD WISDOM for a deeper study of destroys)

So, just how are we supposed to control such an instrument of destruction? How can we change the course of our very lives? With a very powerful spiritual weapon…prayer.

In my distress I cried to the Lord, and He heard me. Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue. (Ps.120:1-2)

The psalmist asks the Lord for divine help. Apart from God, we can never win the battle of the tongue. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can conquer the tongue and move from death into life.

The word life is defined as something that “gives strength, revives, and restores.” We have the power to renew life and restore strength with the fruit of our lips. That’s amazing! Meditate on these powerful truths:

He who speaks truth declares righteousness, but a false witness, deceit. There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. The truthful lip shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. (Pro.12:17-19).

In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is worth little. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of wisdom. (Pro.10:19-21)

The scriptures further declare that a guarded tongue “guards the soul from evil” (Ps.34:13), and a righteous tongue speaks justice, praises, and blesses (Ps.37:30, Ps.51:15, Jas.3:9).

James tells us that we set the course of our lives with our tongue…will it be one of death or one of life? The choice is ours.

Justin the Martyr (100-165 AD) said, “By examining the tongue of a patient, physicians can determine the conditions of the body, and God, the condition of the heart.” Amen.

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