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God’s goal for us is that our conversations are pleasant. Arguing and fights aren’t what he has in mind. Love is the key. Respect is imperative. Our conversations can be beautiful. Imagine that is what people say after we leave them. “What a beautiful conversation that was.”

If people are not courteous to us, we do not have to get angry, we can just walk away. We can withdraw from confrontation.

Jesus challenges us with the following: “When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they do not welcome you, quietly withdraw. Do not make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. You can be sure that on Judgment Day they’ll be mighty sorry—but it’s no concern of yours now.”

To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is! [1]

~King Solomon

Source: Proverbs 15:23

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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 in 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 10:31–32 — 31 The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, But the perverted tongue will be cut out. 32 The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.
  • 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.

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[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Pr 15:23.