Remember Psalm 109, the cry of the poet wounded by hurtful things said about him – things that weren’t true?
The Proverbs continually remind us that every time we open our mouths to speak, a message is being conveyed about who we really are. In fact, speech is such a revealing thing that it’s not just the content of what we say that betrays our character, but the fact that we say anything at all! So Solomon writes that “the words of a man’s mouth are deep waters” – danger lurks there (18:4). The wise man “holds his tongue” (10:19; 11:12) and guards his life (13:3).
Your words can “pierce like a sword” or they can bring healing (12:18). Even a gentle tongue can break a bone (20:18).
Righteous people think before they speak, but fools are quick to respond (often before the question is finished – 18:13), their words are many – and destructive (15:28).
A person who talks all the time will eventually tell something he shouldn’t (20:19), and that person is to be avoided.
In the New Testament, James will write that the tongue is a “world of evil among the parts of the body.” It is such an undisciplined body part that “if anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check” (James 3:6,2).
This business of what we say, when we say it, how often and for how long is such an important matter that it is addressed in some way in every chapter of the proverbs except for three (chapters 3, 9, 29). As you read the proverbs, take note of these warnings, reflect on them regarding your own life. Your willingness to do it, and mold your life accordingly, will say volumes about the kind of person you really are.