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Words have the power to hurt, hide or heal. We must be careful about our choice of words and think twice before we speak. The words that we speak can either be medicine or poison. The quality of our life to a large degree rises and falls on the use or the abuse of our tongues. Jesus warned us that every idle word will come echoing back through time and meet us before God on judgment day. Let's take extra precaution to restrain our tongues. According to the Book of Proverbs, the tongue has the ability to administer death or to administer life.
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Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit.” That’s a striking statement, which reminds us of those all important words. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” I wonder this morning, have you ever wished that you could take back what you just said? A former hall of fame player and baseball manager, Yogi Berra, probably wished that more times than anybody else. The world class catcher was nicely known for dropping his words. Verbal clangers, listen to some of them. One time in the preseason when asked what size of hat he wore, he said, “I don’t know. I’m not yet in shape.” Speaking of the intellectual side of baseball, he said, “90% of this game is half mental.” Commenting on golf, he muddled another statistic when he said, “90% of short shots don’t go in.”
Concerning a restaurant in his own time, he made another clanger when he said, “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s just too crowded.” I like this one. He blundered one day when having lunch with Bobby Richardson, a New York player himself. They were sitting in a restaurant in the city when Berra said, “Don’t look now, but somebody famous is sitting behind you.” “Who is it?” Richardson inquired. “I’m not sure,” Yogi answered. “I get them confused. There’s two of them. Brothers. One died. I’m not sure which one that is behind us, the one that died or the other one.” Finally, I like that on another occasion, speaking of death, he said this. “Always go to your friends’ funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours.” Huh? Now there’s a guy who should have thought a little bit more before he opened his cheeper but honest slips of the lips are a problem for all of us, but unlike those of Yogi Berra, ours don’t always entertain and ours are not always harmless.
The truth is this morning, sad and shocking, that two often our unguarded minds open us and others to all kinds of trouble. Our missteps of the mouth create havoc with words that we said and didn’t mean, and words that we said and did mean. Thoughtless words, uncaring words, hasty words, untrue words. Curse words are no laughing matter. In fact, according to the Book of Proverbs, the tongue has the ability to administer death or to administer life. The words that we speak can either be medicine or poison. In fact, if you think about it, the tremendous impact of our words can be seen in the fact that a word spoken in forgiveness can mend a marriage, but a word spoken in anger can break a child’s spirit. The tongue can either hush a baby to sleep or rise a nation to war. I don’t know if you know this, but for every word in Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, 125 people died in World War II as a consequence.
Folks, the Book of Proverbs is bang on when it says in Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit.” One writer says this almost a hundred years ago, he stated, “There is nothing which seems more insubstantial in speech. A mere vibration in the atmosphere which touches the nerves of hearing and then dies away. There is no organ which seems smaller and less considerable than the tongue. A little member which is not even seen and physically speaking soft and weak, but the word which issues out of the lips is the greatest power in human life.” Now with that in mind, I want to turn to the Book of Proverbs and lead you this morning and this evening on a study on speech. Foolish speech, wise speech, good speech, bad speech, speech that brings death, speech that administers life.
We’re turning the game to the ancient [inaudible 00:04:44] of the Book of Proverbs and this book will show us what we’ve already caught by way of introduction this morning that the quality of our life to a large degree rises and falls on the use or the abuse of our tongues. Let’s see what God wants to say about what we say. Let’s learn to guard our lips and guard our lives. Look at Proverbs 13 and verse three. “He who guards his mouth preserves his life.” Unless you’re going to get a handle on your tongue, I can guarantee you your life is not going to go as smoothly and as successfully as God would want it and wish it. Proverbs is replete with advice on this subject. In fact, Solomon gives us 150 proverbs on the subject alone and as we go through our series, we’re going to see that the wise writers of Proverbs, remember there were multiple authors, they kept their most vivid images in the book for the subject of the tongue.
Now I want to say three things. We’re going to look at words that hurt. We’re going to look at words that hide and we’re going to look at words that heal. Okay? Let’s look at words that hurt. What I want to do here is look at some of the categories of speech that the Book of Proverbs deems harmful. This is going to be painful, rather [inaudible 00:06:14] awkward and uneasy. I’m black and blue from studying this subject for three days. This is good pain. You’re going to feel the lash of God’s word this morning, but that’s okay. The end of it will be health and happiness if it’s hated. Words that hurt. You, see, if you and I don’t guard our language, we’ll not protect our lives and our mouths will inflict pain and bring a wake of destruction in its path.
In fact, did you know that the out of control tongue is described in the Book of Proverbs as a north wind, as a cutting sword, as a deep pit, and as a raging fire? Let me show you this. Turn with me to Proverbs 16 verse 27. Proverbs 16 verse 27 shows us the tongue is a raging fire. “An ungodly man digs up evil and it is on his lips like a burning fire, a perverse man sows strife in a whisper separates the best of friends.” Let’s turn to Proverbs 25 and verse 23. 25 and verse 23. In this time the unguarded mouth is described as a north wind. “The north wind brings forth rain on a back biting tongue and angry countenance.” The tongue can be a cutting sword. Chapter 12 and verse at 18, “There is one who speaks like the piercing of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.”
What an image. Someone using their tongue to lash out at others like a warrior would strike with a sword. If we’re not careful, our tongues can do great damage. They can be like a north wind, they can be like a raging fire, they can be like a cutting sword and finally they can be like a deep pit into which people fall and injure themselves. Proverbs 22 and verse 14 says, “The mouth of an immoral woman is a deep pit. He who is abhorred by the Lord will fall there.” So let’s look at some of the ways by which we can use words to hurt and harm others and ourselves and injure God. Let’s look first of all at what I call forgotten words. This is the first category of verbal cyanide. Forgotten words. This is an interesting place to start because before we look at words that you actually say and hurt people with, I want to think about the fact that you and I can withhold words and hurt people. Forgotten words.
These are words that should have been said, but were never said. Words unspoken hurt in their absence just as much as words spoken hurt in their presence. You think about that. You can wound and cripple people by what you don’t say, by not affirming them, by not accepting them, by not forgiving them, by not communicating your love to them, by withholding words that can minister health and happiness to them. The Bible says here in Book of Proverbs, “A good word, how good is it?” Yet sometimes we withhold good words. You see, you can hurt people with bad words spoken and you can hurt people with good words withheld. Although it’s got a wider application, the principle is there. Back in Proverbs chapter 3 and verse 27, did you notice what was said? “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in the power of your hand to do it.”
Proverbs 15 verse 23 is a corresponding text. Proverbs 15:23, “A man has joy by the answer of his mouth on a word spoken in due season, how good is it?” Let’s put those two verses together. God says, “If you have the ability to do good, do it. Don’t withhold it, don’t hold yourself back,” and the Bible says that a word fitly spoken is a good thing. So when you and I withhold good words, we’re doing a bad thing, and this is what I call forgotten words. There are times when silence is the right thing to do for it keeps people from getting hurt, but there’s a time when silence itself hurts. There are children in our families, there are wives in our marriages, there are people on our streets who are looking to us right now to say something to them to encourage them. There are Sunday school teachers that need a word of encouragement. There are pastors that need to be told they’re doing a good job and yet sometimes we forget to pass on a good word, which is a good thing. those are words that hurt. Words never spoken.
There are people longing for us to say to them this morning, “I love you, I forgive you. I accept you. I thank God for you.” You know what I find as a pastor and I’m counseling couples who have a breakdown of communication in their marriage? Often it is not just what they’re saying that’s the problem, it’s what they’re not saying that’s the problem. When they do say something, it’s cutting, it’s demeaning, it brings the other person down, crushes their spirit. It robs them of a sense of accomplishment and that’s harmful, but you know what? Just as harmful is the fact that we sit around the dinner table or sit at the end of an evening and never say to each other, “You know what? I love you. I appreciate you. I thank God for you. In fact, you said that thing earlier today, let’s just forget about that. Let’s hold no bitterness and let’s love each other despite our differences or despite our failures.”
We don’t want to be like the woman who was longing to hear those kind of words from her husband but never did, and so she plucked up the courage one day and said, “You know what, honey? You never say to me that you love me anymore,” which this old geezer with a gruff voice replied, “Look, I told you the day we got married I love you and if I changed my mind, you’ll be the first to know.” Isn’t that terrible? There’s some people that live like that. It’s really been a long time since some men have said at their wives, “You know what, honey? You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I really appreciate what you’re doing around the home. You’re doing a great job with the kids. I appreciate every sacrifice you make to be a God honoring submissive woman for God’s glory.”
There are husbands that need to be affirmed by their wives and told, “You know what? We appreciate everything you do. You lead us well. You work hard, you give good advice when it’s needed.” When we forget to say those things, we are hurting people in abstention. Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment” isn’t that true? Let’s move on to another category of abusive or destructive speech, not only forgotten words. That’s interesting. Words that we didn’t say that we should say. Now we’re going to look at some words that we did say and shouldn’t have said. This is not only forgotten words, but the second category is fast words or hasty words or rash words.
The Book of Proverbs is replete with warnings about the damage done by a motor mouth. You ever met somebody who’s got a motor mouth, who’s got a Hemi in between these lips, huh? The mouth that never shuts. It’s like a open faucet. It’s like a broken hydrant. The Bible says that kind of mouth is going to get people hurt and going to do a great deal of harm because that mouth is profuse in that it multiplies words after words and that mouth is premature. It just can’t stop, and so it says things it never thought about. Didn’t take time to think about, and the Bible warns us not to be that kind of person and the Bible condemns us if we are that kind of person, the kind of person who doesn’t listen to others but likes to hear themselves talk. Let’s just look at those two categories quickly. What we may call profuse speaking or reckless speaking or unnecessary speaking, let me give you a couple of verses that will stab you.
Proverbs 10 verse 19. “In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.: What’s that verse saying? The more you speak just on the law of averages, the more you’re likely to sin with your mouth, because tempting this tongue is a lot of work. We’ve got to submit ourselves to the spirit of God. We’ve got to learn the word of God to direct our words and that takes work and it takes thought and it takes prayer. If you’re just going to ramble on, you’re just going to multiply your words, then sin will not be lacking. Listen to Proverbs 11 verse 12. “He who is the void of wisdom despises his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his peace.” Look at Proverbs 15:2. This is a great verse. “The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,” okay? The tongue of the wise is premeditated. The tongue of the wise thinks about what they’re going to say, but the mouth of the fool pours forth foolishness.
As we’ve said, it’s just like a broken hydrant just gushing, gushing. The Book of Proverbs says, don’t be like that. The book of Proverbs warns is not only against profuse speaking, but it warns us against premature speaking. That’s being hasty and rash. Look at Proverbs 18 and verse 13. “He who answers the matter before he hears it, it’s folly and it’s shame.” Don’t be an idiot, says the boo of proverbs. Don’t be a social numbskull. Here’s how you ought to act in people’s company. Here’s how you ought to carry yourself in public. Don’t speak until you’re spoken to and if you’re going to speak, make sure you’ve heard the subject correctly. Let the person finish before you start, lest it be shame and folly to you.
You know what? Some of us are like that. This is the sin of husbands because our wives speak more than we do. This is the sin of doctors. You ever been in a doctor’s surgery, you’re halfway through your ailment they’re already writing the prescription in handwriting that you’d need a scientist to decipher for you? This is the sin of pastors. This is my sin. My wife and children remind me of it often. I’ve already formulated an answer before the person’s barely stated the question. Tremendous challenge to all of us. Hasty speech. The Book of Proverbs warns us against it lest we act foolishly and shamefully. Look at Proverbs 18:17, “The first one to plead his cause seems right until his neighbor comes and examines him.”
Don’t act on the first piece of information you get because every story has two sides or three angles, and before you go rushing off, wait till you hear the second person give his side of the story. Lest you go off hearing the first person and his plea and his cause and to your embarrassment, someone else comes along and just contradicts everything you’ve blurted out. There you stand, your head down, just looking like a complete idiot because you used fast words. The Bible encourages us to slow down. [inaudible 00:18:22] 1 verse 19, “Be slow to speak and swift to hear.” That’s great wisdom isn’t it? Slow to speak. Don’t speak fast words.
That’s why it’s better to remain silent and be thoughtful than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. You see, where do you get that? Proverbs 17, verse 27. “He who has knowledge spares his words.” The wise person speaks sparingly, and a man of understanding has a calm spirit. They’re not rash, not hasty. Calculated, premeditated, thoughtful. Verse 28. Even a fool is kind and wise when he holds his peace. When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.” You see, the wise man when he speaks is seen to be wise because he speaks sparingly, he speaks wisely, but the fool, well, he can be kind and wise. All he has to do is button it, stick a sock in it, and we’ll consider him wise, but if he just opens his mouth and blunders and blurts out whatever’s there, well you can be sure sin will not be lacking. I like what William Penn, leader of the early American colonists said. He eventually had the State of Pennsylvania named after him in his honor.
He said this quote about speech and some of the rules regarding conversation. “Some are so foolish as to interrupt and anticipate those that speak instead of hearing and thinking before they answer, which is uncivil as well as silly.” I don’t know if he read the Book of Proverbs, but he’s certainly patterning his rules after it. This is the other one he said. “If thou thinkest twice before thou speakest once, thou wilt speak twice the better for it.” My favorite story regarding this regards Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States. He was a reserved man known for his sparing words. They called him silent Calvin. Well, one day a reporter cornered him and stuck a microphone in his nose and the conversation on something like this. “Do you wish to say anything about the war threat in Europe, Mr. President?” Coolidge replied, “No.” “What about the strike in the clothing factories?” Coolidge remained silent. “What about the League of Nations?” Coolidge replied, “No.”
Getting exasperated, the reporter raised his voice. “What about the foreign production problem, Mr. President?” Coolidge replied, “No.” The reporter began to leave the room, realized he wasn’t getting anywhere when Coolidge unexpectedly called him back and said, “Don’t you be quoting me.” Don’t you be quoting me. What? That guy never said anything, but you see, silence is not a lack of communication. It’s actually a form of communication and when you are silent, you’re communicating your wisdom. When you take time to listen before you speak, you’re communicating wisdom because life and death is in the power of the tongue and death and destruction and damage come with words that are forgotten and words that are fast and thirdly, words that are false. This is another category, false words. Words that are deceptive, not true, words that are exaggerated, words that distort the facts.
There are three categories of those words we’ll quickly look at. False words are lying words, gossiping words, and flattering words and these kind of words divide friends, destroy neighborhoods, obliterate churches, and fresh enemies. The first category of false words is lies. Let’s quickly talk about that. God hates the lying tongue. In Proverbs 12 verse 22, here’s what we read. “Lying lips are aren’t an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are his delight.” The God of truth who wrote a book which is called the Word of Truth, who sent his son who’s known as the truth, he cannot abide those who deceive people with words. This book warns us about the devil who deceives with lying words. This book tells us to put our trust in the Son of God who speaks truthful words. “If it were not so,” Jesus said, “I’d have told you,” but I’m telling you the truth and the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ and whose character is reflected in the royal law of the Bible, he hates lying lips.
He hates those who misrepresent the truth, who spin the facts, who exaggerate reality. Proverbs 54 verse 24 tells us this. “Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put perverse lips far from you.” Heed that warning, don’t get involved in lying. Big black ones, little white ones, don’t do it. Don’t use false words. They administer death. They awake the wrath of God. They hurt people. There is no good in lying, no good to the one that uses lies because according to Proverbs 12 and verse 19, “The lying tongue is but for a moment.” Whatever you get away with through lying is not going to last. In fact, according to Proverbs 19 and verse 9, “The false witness will not go unpunished.” Don’t lie because God’s watching and it’s an abomination to him, and whatever advancement you get through deceit, it will be short lived and it will not go unpunished and either in this life or the life to come. It hurts God because he’s holy untruthful and it hurts you, because you sin and awaken God’s judgment upon you and because it hurts others.
Look at Proverbs 25 verse 18. Proverbs 25:18. What a verse. “A man who bares false witness against his neighbor is like a club, a sword, and a sharp arrow.” If I was to update that, if you lie against someone physically speaking, it’s like taking a [inaudible 00:25:04] nine millimeter pistol and drilling a round into them. It’s that grave. It’s not hurtful. It wounds, it obliterates, it breaks bones, it breaks hearts. It smashes up homes, it destroys churches, it brings businesses crashing down, it topples governments. It will not go unpunished. It’s false words and God hates it. Secondly, do we not only have lies but gossip as false words? This is the breaking of a confidence. This is sharing a secret. This is a person who knows no discretion with his or her use of information, and the Bible warns as against such speech patterns.
Look at Proverbs 11 verse 13. “A tale bearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals the matter. A wise person, a righteous man, knowing something about someone else will cover that knowledge with a blanket of love and conceal the matter.” Hold it to himself, perhaps it’s come to him unwittingly or perhaps that friend has shared it. Well, the wise man will seal it, put it away, keep it in safekeeping, but the fool, the unrighteous man, the tale bearer, well he’ll shout it from the house tops. He’ll gossip, show no discretion. Look at Proverbs 20 verse 19. “He who goes about as a tale bearer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.” You know what gossip is? Gossip is a false or an unverified piece of information about someone else that once in your possession you decide to discuss it with a third party and you discuss it in a negative fashion.
Did you hear? Can I share this with you for prayer? Off we go, gossiping. In fact, what’s interesting, if you look at gossip, it can be false or unverified information about someone being passed on, but it can also be truth. It can be true knowledge being passed on, but that’s still gossip. Even if it’s true, it’s still gossip and I’ll tell you why. Because you were given it not to share but to conceal it and come alongside that person and to help them in their problem. Not to get on the blower and tell somebody about what you know because it gives you some kind of power rush because you’ve got a piece of information, and we’re in an information world and so we think information’s everything. Therefore, information is power. You’ve got power over that person. You’ve got power to gain the interest of another person by sharing that piece of gossip.
It may be true, but that gives you no right to share it because it only ought to be shared with certain people at certain times. Not third parties that you invite into the circle, and so gossip is a dangerous thing and yet we have a real taste for it, don’t we? Look at this proverb. It’s repeated twice. Talk about a picture, remember I said at the beginning they have kept their most vivid images for this subject. Proverbs 18 verse 8. “The words of a tale bearer are like tasty trifles. They go down into the inmost body. [inaudible 00:28:32] they’re down into the rooms of the belly.” Gossip. We’ve got an appetite for gossip. Gossip according to this verse is like a box of Belgian chocolate eclairs at a Sam’s Club. You ever get those things? Man, they don’t last long in our house. Those little things, those little dainty trifles with chocolate on the top and cream filling in the middle.
Forget about diets. Give me that box right now. It’s tasty. I’ll work it off some other day. The Bible says yes, just like gossip we lick our lips when we’re hearing about someone else’s fall, someone else’s sin, someone else’s misstep. We talk and someone hands one of these tasty trifles, and we swallow it and we ruminate upon it. The Bible says, don’t do that. Lose your appetite for gossip because gossip spreads sin and it causes strife. Proverbs 26 verse 20. 26 and verse 20, “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out and where there is no tale bearer, strife ceases, but as charcoal is to burning coal and wood to far, so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a tale bearer are as tasty trifles.” See what it’s saying? The gossiper is like wood on a fire, kindling strife and trouble.
Ladies, hear me here. It’s interesting in the New Testament, Paul on a number of occasions especially warns women not to gossip. It’s not that men don’t gossip. Everyone’s capable of gossiping young and old, male or female, but it seems in Paul’s writings, this was a particular danger within the church when it came to women. Turn with me to 1 Timothy 3 just for a couple of moments and we’ll see this. 1 Timothy 3 and verse 11. Speaking of the qualifications for a deacon’s wife, we read, “Therefore their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.” The word slanderer there is [inaudible 00:30:54] gossip. Can you imagine the damage done by a deacon’s wife who can’t hold their tongue? Because a deacon is often privy to private information either from the pastors as they involve the deacons in their ministry or a deacon himself getting involved in a benevolent need or a family problem, and things are shared.
He carries that in his heart to God and he goes home and he says, “You know what? We need to pray for this family. They’re hurting,” and the wife rightly should pray along with her husband. Nothing wrong with the deacon sharing that with his wife just as long as she’s accepting it in confidence. The deacon’s wife can’t be a malicious gossip. Can you imagine the inside stories that pastors carry and deacons carry being spread out on the wire of the church grapevine? There’s a particular word of warning here to deacon’s wife. Go over to 1 Timothy 5 when it comes to widows, it’s interesting here. Paul is writing about how the church ought to administer its benevolent fund. He encourages that widows of a certain age ought to be put onto that fund and they ought to have a reputation for good works. They ought to have done a good job bringing up their children. They ought to have lodged strangers, but widows under 60 should not be put on the list.
What Paul calls younger women, and he says for two reasons. Number one, immorality and number two, idleness. Because when their husband dies, that young widow may commit themselves to staying a widow, staying single, serving the children, serving the Lord but Paul knows that there’s a real possibility that their sexual drive and their appetite for romance and companionship will be stirred up over time. This promise they made to Christ will become a problem. Look at verse 11. “They’ll grow wanton against Christ,” and they will desire to marry and then they’ll be in a fix because they cannot promise to stay as a widow and they’re on the list for widows, and now what are they to do? Paul says, “Look, let’s not put these young women on our list because the likelihood is they’ll marry. In fact, they should remarry.” There’s wisdom in young women remarrying because then a man can come alongside and provide security and finances and help them raise their children.
Remarriage when a spouse dies young is a good thing and a biblical thing. That’s another subject to be more fully explained but Paul says, “Then there’s another issue. If they’re on the list and they’re at home and the church is taking care of them, they are in danger of getting involved in idle gossip.” Look at verse 13. Besides the problem of immorality, besides that, they may learn to be idle. He says, “Wandering about from house to house and not only idle, but gossips. Busy bodies saying things which ought not to be said.”
Ladies, I hope you don’t spend your day on the phone at home talking about other people. It’s an awful waste of a phone bill, it’s a sin, it’s damaging to the church and Paul condemns it. An idle mind employs a mouth to bad ends, and Paul warns, especially the young women in this church not to get involved in gossip. To spend their days passing on tales. Look at Titus 2 and verse 3. “The older women, likewise, it’s not just the young widows but older women, women in general, likewise they’re to be reverent in behavior. Not slanderers, not given [inaudible 00:34:37] teachers of good things.” The word slanderer there, again. Gossip, malicious talk.
Again, I said men can gossip, but I think particularly there’s a warning here to deacons’ wives, young widows and older women not to say more than they ought to say on any given occasion because the more you say, the more chance you’re going to sin. Don’t be sitting around the house reading magazines, watching television, getting on the phone to other people and talking about the latest thing you’ve heard or they have heard. It’s sinful. Employ your time and your talents to better uses, and it’s a problem out in our culture. We live in the talk show culture. We live in the Jerry Springer culture. We live in the culture that has handed everybody a cell phone so that you can talk endlessly during the day even when you’re by yourself now. Wherever you are, you can go to the store and pick up yourself the latest magazine with all the gossip columns that will amuse your mind all day long.
Gossip, gossip, gossip. Multiplied words, multiplied words, multiplied words. That’s our culture and it is not a culture that encourages us to speak like the Book of Proverbs encourages us to speak, so we need to be careful. That’s why as a pastor, by the way, I have a rule typically when someone comes to speak to me about a matter which may involve them talking to me about someone else, I always tell them that that likelihood is in fact more than likely, that I will go to that person to tell them what you told me. Or you will then go and tell them what you’ve told me. 9 times out of 10, conversation’s over because 9 times out of 10 it’s veiled gossip, or it’s someone bringing another brother down because they don’t have the honesty and the Christian spirit to go to that brother and confront them about that matter graciously. Lies, gossip, flattery.
This is the last category of words under false words as we come towards the close. This is interesting. If gossip is saying behind a person’s back what you would not say to their face, flattery is saying to their face what you wouldn’t say behind their back. You get the difference? When someone flatters you in an unbiblical sense, we’re not talking about passing on a good compliment or a just word of praise. That’s not flattery, that’s compliment, that’s praise, and that’s okay but flattery is saying to someone’s face what you wouldn’t say behind their back because you really have an ulterior motive. You’re stroking them. This is a culture of strokers, isn’t it? We’ll say anything to get anywhere so that we can have our agenda advanced, and this kind of stroking with ulterior motive for personal advancement is called flattery in the Bible, and it’s a misuse of your tongue. The Bible condemns it and the Bible warns us to look out for it. Turn with me to Proverbs 26.
Proverbs 26 and verse 24. “He who hates, disguises it with his lips and lays that deceit within himself. When he speaks kindly do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart.” The Book of Proverbs’ saying that there is the real possibility that someone’s going to say words that are kind and uplifting to your face, but in their heart there’s seven abominations and behind your back they’re bringing you down. They’re feigning love, they’re playing a game, they’re using you and they’re abusing speech to use you. That’s flattery, and the Bible condemns it and the Bible says, look, don’t believe everything you hear about yourself, even when it’s good. Don’t swallow all that.
I’ll give you another proverb. In fact, look at Proverbs 26 verse 23. Just go back up. This is an amazing little proverb. “Fervent lips with a wicked heart are like earthenware covered with silver dross.” Just as in pottery, you can have this dirty earthenware thing made to look good by a glaze of color and paint. So people gloss their words to hide the fact that they’re really using you. When they say those nice things about you, they really don’t love you. They love themselves because they want something from you. This is a particular problem to the rich. Remember we saw that back in Proverbs 14 verse 20?
“The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor, but the rich have many friends,” but they’re not real friends. “Hey, haven’t seen you recently. Yeah, we got to get together. What about doing something together? What about a game of golf?” You go, “Hey, I’d like that,” but you see, he’s really got a use for you and he’s investing time in you for himself, not for you. You’ve got something he wants and he’ll use flattery to get it. The Bible says don’t do that and if you’re on the receiving end of it, try and be discerning and don’t swallow it.
We could indeed illustrate this, couldn’t we? Through multiple applications. What about the insecure widow who’s prey to some cunning suitor whose own money is running out? Her pockets are deeper. Why not make a marriage arrangement? Flattery will get you there. What about the unhappy teenage girl who is divested of the love and affirmation of a father and therefore ill-equipped to fend off the compliments of a young man who has only got one thing on his mind? What about the overweight balding executive who’s in his 50s who perceives that he’s over the hill and may be responsive to the charms of a young attractive secretary who flatterers him? The Bible warns us about flattery. In fact, someone has said that flattery is like perfume. Enjoy it, but don’t swallow it.
I wouldn’t even say that’s true. Don’t smell it, sniff it, or swallow it. It’s poisoned perfume and the Bible tells you to stay away from it because it’s false and unreal and it’s going to hurt you when the pretense is unmasked and uncovered. Folks, we’re barreling to a close. We’ve looked at the negative side of speech this morning, forgotten words and fast words and false words. They do great damage. They deal death because life and death is in the par of the tongue. Look, the tongue can be used for good purposes and bad purposes. The tongue is only three inches long, but it can kill a man six feet high and it can topple kingdoms thousands of miles wide.
It’s so powerful. It may be small, but [inaudible 00:42:31] says it’s like a spark on a dry prairie. It can set the world on fire. It may be small just like the rudder of a ship, but it can change the course of a life. It may be small, but it’s like the serpent that strikes with deadly poison. As we close this morning and we think about the fact that our mother was telling us lies when she said sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never harm you. Every mother has to repent of that statement. It’s a lie. It’s not true, is it? Words hurt more than sticks and stones. Bruises heal, cuts cauterize, but words echo in a person’s heart for decades, whipping them and hurting them again and again and again. So you and I need to take care of this unruly little member.
Let me finish by just giving you some things to think about and encourage you to come back out tonight, but here’s what I’d suggest. If you and I need to curb our words. We need to guard our tongues. Here’s a couple of things to think about. Number one, resolve to talk less and think more. Proverbs 17 verse 27 says, “He who has knowledge spares his words in a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.” Proverbs 13 verse 3, “He who guards his mouth preserves his life.” We live in an information society that encourages us to speak and talk our heads off all day long, and the Bible says in a multitude of words, sins not lacking. You want to cut down the chances of sinning with your tongue? Then unbutton it, stick a sock in it. Don’t speak as much. Be a better listener. Look for quietness in the day.
Don’t think you have to speak to everything. Feel free not to have an opinion on anything. Speak less and think more because on an average day, you and I speak enough words that if they were put into print would amount to 50 pages of material. Why don’t you get that 50 pages down to 40? That’ll be a start. Number two, not only resolve to talk less and think more, resolve to be of your words in God’s words. Colossians 3 verse 16 and 17. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” The Greek word for dwell there, to take up resonance, to make up its home.
Let the word of Christ settle down in your life, take up residence in your mind and your heart. May it fill every room of your life. Let it dwell in you richly so that you might speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs admonishing one another. If God’s word is in our hearts and the Bible says that out of the heart the mouth speaks, it’s going to have an effect. We’ve got to be of our words in God’s words. We’ve got to let his word direct our tongue. We’ve got to let our words and mouth to be bridled by the scriptures so that we’re thinking thoughts after God.
That means we need to be in the word of God every day, meditating upon it day and night. If it isn’t open and we’re reading it actually when it sits on our lap, we’ve stored it up in our hearts through memorization and wherever we are, we’re able to recall the word of God. That’s a good thing. We’ll guard our tongues because God’s word will become our words. Spurgeon said, “We should have blood that’s [inaudible 00:46:44], wherein whenever you cut a Christian, they should bleed the Bible.” How often is biblical language in your language? How often do you turn the conversation to a conversation about God’s word? That will help. The word of God can become like a teleprompter reminding us what to say. The news anchors, they spend their day writing up their script and then it’s put on a teleprompter. There they sit at 6:00 evening news. You don’t see it, but there’s a prompter right in front of them reminding them of their words that they had written earlier that day.
The word of God can have that ministry. If we put it in our hearts, we spend time thinking about it at some point in the day and it becomes the script for the day, it becomes the talking points of our life, then our words will be God’s words and God’s words will be our words. The tongue will be a lot more constructive, won’t it? Here’s another thing. Resolve to pray as you speak. Resolve to speak less and think more. Resolve to be of your words in God’s words. Resolve to pray as you speak. Remember Nehemiah when we were studying the book of Nehemiah chapter two verses four through five, he’s before King Artaxerxes?
He’s sad, he’s sullen, he’s burdened with the thought that Jerusalem lies in ruin, that God’s name is being besmirched among the nations. The king says, “Hold on a minute, Nehemiah. What’s up with you? What’s with the long face, Nehemiah?” Nehemiah’s going, “My goodness, I’m in trouble now. This guy will lop my head off because it doesn’t look that happy today.” He realizes he’s got an opportunity. God’s going to have to turn the heart of the king. He’s going to have to say the right thing at this right moment and it says that he prayed to heaven and then he spoke to the king. That’s a great way to live, to pray as you speak, to pray about what you’re going to say, to talk to God as you’re talking to others or to talk to God about others, and that will curtail what you say about them to others.
Pray as you speak. Finally, resolve to think about eternity in time. Resolve the think about eternity in time. Listen to these words from Jesus in Matthew 12 verse 36. These words should put the kibosh on words that hurt coming from our mouths. Jesus said that every idle word man may speak, they will given account of it in the day of judgment. Every idle word will come echoing back through the corridors of time and out in the eternity to meet us before God and my friend, if you think about that as I’ve thought about it this week, that’ll put a restraint on an unrestrained tongue because what you say, you will hear again in the presence of God. So Jesus said, “Look, you judge your words more carefully so that God won’t have to judge your words more strictly.” That’s a tremendous challenge.
George Bush the first, Herbert Bush, was running for president in 1988. If you remember this, he said something that was rather rude about some of the news casters of that day. In fact, he spoke ill of Don Rather and then he spoke ill of a man by the name of Lesley Stahl, who was the White House correspondent for CBS. In fact, he cursed and then he took the Lord’s name in vain. He used foul language and then he blasphemed, and he did apologize. He said this quote, “Of I had have known that the mic was on, I wouldn’t have said it. I wouldn’t have taken the Lord’s name in vain, and I apologize for that. I didn’t know I was being taped, or I wouldn’t have said it.” The mic’s on. The tape’s rolling and every idle word will be given accounted for in the day of judgment, and by your words, you will either be justified or condemned, says Jesus.
What does that mean? We’ll talk about it tonight. It’s not saying that if you speak right, you get into heaven and you pass mustard with God, but remember what Jesus said. “Out of the heart, the mouth speaks,” and when God judges if you and I are saved or not, whether he changed our hearts or not, whether Jesus Christ came in to abide and live in us, one of the ways he’ll be able to determine that is by the words we spoke and our words will justify our justification. Our words will determine whether we’re saved or not. Not in the truest sense of that, that we’re saved by our words, but that our words will give evidence of whether we’re saved or not. James 1:26. “If a man doesn’t bridle his tongue, his religion is worthless.”
It’s not that you and I can’t commit a howler when it comes to the use of our tongues. Doesn’t mean that you and I can’t have an outburst burst of anger where we surprise ourselves with what would come out of our mouth. It’s not what the verse is saying, but when that’s a lifestyle, when you’re a continual gossip, when you’re a continual liar, when you’re a continual blasphemer by using God’s vainly, then your words will meet you on the day of judgment and condemn you as someone who never knew the true impact of the good words of Jesus Christ in the gospel.