By Kevin Leary

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Wow! The potential to bring life or death is wrapped up in the use of our words. Solomon, in the great wisdom that he received from the Lord, knew the power of the tongue. And that is why so many proverbs deal with our tongue. When we recognize the power of the tongue, we will desire God’s wisdom for our words. It is good and right for us to consider some of these proverbs.

1. Do I speak too much? Proverbs 10:19 states, “in the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”
2. Do I speak enough? Proverbs 31:8–9 says, “Open your mouth for the speechless; In the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”
3. Are my words true? Proverbs 12:17 declares, “He who speaks truth declares righteousness, but a false witness, deceit.”
4. Do my words stir-up or turn away wrath? Proverbs 15:1 proclaims, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
5. Do I think before I speak? Proverbs 15:28 reveals, “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.”
6. Am I growing in my words or do my words still get me in trouble? Proverbs 16:23 describes the one who is growing, “the heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips.” Whereas, Proverbs 18:6–7 describes the foolish mouth, “A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.”
7. Do I speak too quickly? Proverbs 20:25 warns of making a rash vow, “It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy, and afterward to reconsider his vows.”
8. Do my words come from a heart of pride as they focus on me? Proverbs 27:2 clearly teaches, “let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.”
9. When speaking words of correction do they heal and help? Proverbs 24:17 reminds us, “do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”
10. Are my words seasoned with grace? Proverbs 22:11 encourages us with these words, “He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend.”

When we trust in the Lord with all of our heart, our tongues will be springs of life. May the God of life control our hearts so that our lips bring life. And when we recognize that we have leaned on our own understanding and have destroyed people with our words, then may we speak words of confession to our God. Proverbs 28:13 gives us this hope, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whosoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”

Kevin Leary (MA, Piedmont Graduate School) is pastor of First Baptist Church, Hamburg, N.Y. This article was originally posted to the church’s blog and is republished here by permission.