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We have all experienced being around someone with a foul mouth. We have all experienced someone whose speech is a breath of fresh air or a fountain of refreshing water on a blistering sweltering day.

  • Who do we want to be around?
  • Who do we want to spend time with?
  • What kind of person will I be?

God’s goal for us, through the power of his resurrected son Jesus, the Messiah, is to be a fountain of wisdom.

The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,

but the perverse tongue will be cut off.

The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,

but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse. [1]

(Proverbs 10:31-32)

What is the impact of speech? It has the power of life and death. That sounds extreme but it is true. Words can kill. Words can give life. Will I choose words the bear fruit of life?

The tongue” is used throughout Scripture in both literal and metaphorical ways, especially in Psalms, Proverbs, and James. The tongue is a “small part of the body” (James 3:5) yet Proverbs 18:21 says it “has the power of life and death.” This holds true whether we’re speaking of spiritual, physical, or emotional “life and death.”

We should keep in mind that the word tongue is often a reference to the spoken word. This is a special kind of figure of speech called metonymy, in which one word stands for another, closely related word. A common example of metonymy is seen in this sentence: “The White House issued a statement.” Of course, the White House, as a building, cannot issue statements; however, in this instance, White House refers to the President, who lives there. In the same way, when Proverbs 15:4 states, “A deceitful tongue crushes the spirit,” tongue is a metonymy. Obviously, a literal, fleshly tongue cannot crush the human spirit, but the words the tongue produces can.

  • Ephesians 4:29 — 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
  • Proverbs 10:11 — 11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
  • Proverbs 10:20–21 — 20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, The heart of the wicked is worth little. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of understanding.
  • Proverbs 16:21 — 21 The wise in heart will be called understanding, And sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
  • Proverbs 16:23–24 — 23 The heart of the wise instructs his mouth And adds persuasiveness to his lips. 24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
  • Proverbs 25:12 — 12 Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
  • Isaiah 50:4 — 4 The Master God has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Pr 10:31–32). (2016). Crossway Bibles.


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