************ Sermon on Proverbs 18:21 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 10, 2016
"Proverbs on the Tongue"
Here in America we believe -- strongly -- in freedom of speech. As Americans, we have the right to blurt out almost anything, anywhere, and at anytime. We have the freedom to promote gay lifestyles, pornography, racism, communism, socialism, Scientology, Mormonism, and a host of other beliefs. We have the right to speak against our leaders. We have the right to criticize Sanders, Trump, Clinton, and every other presidential candidate. But, BUT, when we become Christians, we enter a new culture where we no longer take advantage of this right. As people who have taken the Lord's Supper and been assured of the cleansing blood of Jesus, we stop blurting out whatever we feel. Instead, we bring our words under the restraining influence of God's Word and Spirit. Proverbs says,
(Prov 29:11) A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.
(Prov 10:19) When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
Wisdom teaches us that those who are Christians keep their tongues under control. Remember, we are learning about wisdom from the book of Proverbs. Wisdom is knowing how to live rightly before God. Wisdom, we've been saying, impacts every area of life. We need wisdom as we deal with a world filled with violence. We need wisdom in family relationships. We need wisdom to handle wealth. We need wisdom to follow God's paths. We need wisdom when it comes to work and play. We need wisdom when it comes to our words.
Wisdom, we have also been saying, begins with the fear of the Lord. If you don't know and love Jesus, you won't have wisdom and you won't find wisdom and your life will be a mess. But even if you do know and love Jesus, wisdom is not a sure thing because you need to put your life, your thoughts, your words, your heart under the control of King Jesus. You need to spend time with the Word. You need to spend time with Proverbs and with passages like the Sermon on the Mount.
So what does wisdom teach us about our words? Our text sums it up: "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit" (Prov 18:21).
I Proverbs 18:21
A The first thing I want to say is that words have power. An English language children's rhyme says "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." A variation says "names will never hurt me." Whoever came up with this ditty must have led a pretty sheltered life. Because words hurt. Because words have power, far more power than sticks and stones. Words penetrate to the heart. That's what our text has in mind:
(Prov 18:21) The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Like God, we use words to touch hearts, create trust, form relationships, and build community. Unlike God, we also use words to break hearts, destroy trust, wreck relationships, and divide community.
B How important are our words? The book of Proverbs has around ninety proverbs counseling us about our speech. Ninety. Proverbs has more to say about our words than about any other subject.
How important are our words? Let me answer this by asking a simple question: What is worse, theft or gossip? Theft is a serious sin but I have never seen theft send a whole church into a meltdown; on the other hand, I have seen first-hand how gossip and other sins of the tongue can destroy churches.
How important are our words? I have come to realize that much of the strife in our families, offices, dorms, schools, churches, and nation is because of foolish words. Do you know one of the main words of advice I give when people come to see me about family problems? Over and over again, I keep counseling parents and children to keep their mouths shut. In family relationships, it is better to stay silent than to say something that someone will forever hold against you.
C According to our text, our words have the power of life and death:
(Prov 18:21) The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.The tongue can kill. For instance, a woman in LA took her own life. All she wrote in her suicide note was, "They said." In his suicide note, Vince Foster of the Clinton White House wrote this about Washington, D.C.: "Here ruining people is considered sport."
"Cutting remark" is a phrase we have in our English language. It is a remark or comment intended to injure the feelings of others. It happens when we blurt out rash words, reckless words, unthinking words. It happens when we talk without a filter. Consider the words of Proverbs 12:
(Prov 12:18) Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.We are to see our rash and reckless words as razor blades flying out of our mouth into the body of another person. The wounds and scars remain long after the words have faded away.
This is why there should never be shouting in a Christian home. The parent should never yell and scream at the teen. The husband and wife should never be yelling and screaming at each other. The kids should never be yelling at parents. Why? Because you are killing each other with your words.
Every church seems to have one person who has no filter. They just blurt out anything and everything and along the way they hurt countless people -- especially those closest to them.
Jesus is the only person in all of history Who never spoke an unguarded, self-indulgent word. He never opened His lips in a wrong way, not once, ever. He never spoke when silence was better, and every word He did speak was perfect. Even His enemies said, "No one ever spoke the way this man does!" (Jn 7:46).
D Happily, I can say that the tongue also has the power of life. As our text puts it:
(Prov 18:21) The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
(Prov 12:18) ... the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Let me tell you three words that bring healing: "Please forgive me." Here are another three: "I forgive you." And another three: "I love you." These words bring healing and life. Especially in family life. There are so many kids, including grown up ones, who have never heard these words from their parents, who are desperate to hear these words. Even after the parent dies they still are in a desperate quest to hear these words. Also, there are many marriage partners who never say these words and their spouse is desperate to hear them. As parents and children, as husbands and wives, as brothers and sisters, we need to say these words because these words bring healing and peace and joy and life.
But now let me mention the main way, the most important way, that words bring life. Let me get at that way by asking a question: Who is Jesus? Remember the start of John's gospel?
(Jn 1:1-2,14) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was with God in the beginning ... (14) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.Jesus is the Word. Jesus is the Word become flesh. Jesus is everything that needs to be said and the only thing that needs to be said. When we believe in Jesus, we get life in His name.
II Proverbs 20:15
(Prov 20:15) Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.Proverbs teaches us that OUR WORDS MATTER. Our words count. Our words mean something. I am talking about all our words: conversations, emails, texts, blogs, phone calls, Twitter updates, Facebook messages. Think about all of this. How many times do you talk per day? How many times do you communicate every day? One study indicates the number is about 700 times per day. All of these count for something. So, let me ask, what are you all saying? What are you all communicating?
Our words are more than puffs of air coming through our vocal cords. Do you remember what Jesus said? Jesus said, "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken" (Mt 12:36). This should scare you. Someday we have to give account for every word we have spoken. Someday we will have to give account for the 700 times we communicate each and every single day. Telling us what? Telling us our words matter. They can be right and good and just and wise. And, they can be wrong and bad and unjust and foolish.
(Prov 20:15) Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.Proverbs also says knowledgeable, informed, intelligent words are rare and valuable in God's sight. Wise talk, knowledgeable talk, righteous talk, upbuilding talk is rare.
III Proverbs 12:22
(Prov 12:22) The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.
Lying might not bother you much, because most of us are used to it and expect it, but it bothers the Lord. Advertisers lie. Politicians lie. People being investigated by the police lie. Defendants in court lie. Children and teens lie. The psalmist goes so far as to say, "All men are liars" (Ps 116:11). One of the guys I cycle with works for the District Attorney's office as an investigator. He would say a loud "AMEN" to the words of the psalmist. People lie in every case he investigates. He investigated welfare fraud. Liars. He investigated business practices. Liars. He did criminal investigations. Liars. He investigates traffic accidents. Liars. Everyone he deals with in his work is a liar. He is very jaded and hard and needs the grace of Jesus.
Maybe you have seen the film "Liar Liar" with Jim Carrey. He plays Fletcher Reed -- a habitual liar. But for one day he can only say the truth -- with very humorous results. I don't particularly care for Jim Carrey. Yet, a man who cannot lie is a picture of what you and I should be in Christ. Lying is an abomination to God. Lying is repulsive to God. Lying bothers God.
Jesus tells us that the Devil is "a liar and the father of lies" (Jn 8:44). Lying is evil because it breaks love and trust and intimacy and community.
When our sons were growing up they knew they would be punished for doing wrong; and, they knew that if they lied about it they would be punished twice as much. Nothing pushes parents over the edge as quickly as the lies of their kids. Truth, not lies, makes love and trust and intimacy and community possible.
IV Proverbs 17:4
(Prov 17:4) A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue.
Speaking lies is only half of the problem. Listening to lies is also a problem.
God wants us to know that just standing there and listening to someone's lies and slander is wrong. To listen to lies and tolerate lies is to share in lies. "A liar pays attention to a malicious tongue." So, be careful to what and to whom you listen.
Here is the alternative, the Christian way. If a person approaches you and starts criticizing and complaining about another person, have the courage to say, "Time out. I don't want to be involved. I'm not listening to this."
V Proverbs 18:8
(Prov 18:8) The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts.Proverbs says we find gossip to be delicious.
It is like the doughnut I ate yesterday -- Bavarian cream and covered with chocolate. Likewise, gossip is a delicacy, a choice morsel -- to corrupt hearts. Let's admit it: we love gossip. We love negative information about others. We love controversy.
VI Proverbs 31:8-9
(Prov 31:8-9) "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. (9) Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy."I want to end by saying a few words about being a bully. Today, most bullying is done online. Especially against kids.
Do you speak up when others are put down? Or do you just stand there as a silent bystander? God says, "Open you mouth." Defend. Speak up. Stand up for the one being picked on.
So much is at stake in our words. They matter not just to us but, far more importantly, they matter to God. We need to remember we are always speaking before the face of God.
Now you have a choice: by the grace of God you can follow Lady Follow or you can follow Lady Wisdom. You can be wise in your speech, you can let it be formed by the Word and Spirit of God. Or, you can blurt it all out, having no filter, destroying those around you.
If you are a Christian, someone cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, you should be wise enough to let Jesus be your speech-writer. Because "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. But fools despise wisdom and discipline" (Prov 1:7).
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