Scripture Reading: Proverbs 17 - 18 …
With 24-hour cable news networks, countless talk shows, endless means of communication and the ability to "speak your piece" about anything to anybody, people would do well to listen more and talk less. With wisdom from the Lord, Solomon writes, "The tongue has the power of life and death" (18:21). Words can build up or tear down, and words spoken without thought of their consequences can cause the destruction even of nations. Countless relationships have been and are being destroyed by careless words. How much better it is to choose your words wisely than to have to backtrack and spend hours trying to explain or retract what you have already said! So much of what Solomon writes in his proverbs connects your words with the attitude of your heart. As we have already seen in our study of Proverbs, your words reveal what is inside your mind and your heart.
At first glance, Proverbs may appear to be a string of disconnected "sayings" that are fun to quote but which hold little in the form of practical application. However, the overall theme is visible throughout as the wise man and the fool are contrasted in virtually every area of life. Wisdom is connected with listening, watching your tongue, and a cheerful and humble spirit; while foolishness is linked with gossip, strife, lying and pride. Here is an example: "He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends" (17:9). That’s a simple truth that when applied to life results in two totally difference results. It’s another way of saying that our words have consequences.
The continuity of God's Word is seen repeatedly as you compare the words of Solomon in Proverbs with other portions of Scripture. Solomon writes, "Better a crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife" (17:1), and "Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out" (17:14). The apostle Paul writes of this in Romans: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (12:18). Getting the last word is not wisdom. "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions" (18.2). God is saying that fools like to hear themselves talk!
People who are always talking but never listening will at some point discover they have no one to talk to! And those who attempt to answer people’s questions without really listening are described in this way: "He who answers before listening - that is his folly and his shame" (18:13). These words are intended to give wisdom to those who read them. Remember, God says that listening and speaking must be two sides of the same coin. The wise man does both ... at the appropriate times! "A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even- tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue" (17:27-28).
How you speak reveals the attitude of your heart and whether or not you have learned wisdom from the Lord. Learning to listen and to hold your tongue at the appropriate times will allow your words to be heard when you actually have something important to say! Those who know the Lord desire to speak His truth, not our own opinions. If we always speak more than we listen our audience will be small, and it should be our prayer that everyone hears God's Word and comes to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. So we need to heed the counsel of Solomon as he speaks the words the Spirit of God gave him.
Interspersed with wisdom concerning our tongues is wisdom about our relationships with others that are so affected by our words. "Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children" (17:6). Family relationships are so often broken in this world where there seems to be little respect for others, and children learn early how to behave - often from the wrong sources. For this proverb to be true parents must take the initiative early in teaching their children the truths revealed in God's Word and point them to Jesus Christ to help them overcome their sinful nature (yes, children have a sinful nature, too!). Children need to be taught to choose their friends wisely: "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity" (17:17). Many people have gone down the path of destruction because of harmful associations early in life. It DOES matter who your friends are!
Ultimately, it comes down to this: "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (18:24). There is only ONE who qualifies as THE friend who will always be there for those who know Him: Jesus Christ. By His Word and Spirit Jesus speaks to you and me and walks with us through this life. With everything that is going on all around us every day, He is faithful and the knowledge of His love and grace and presence brings joy to the soul of those who love Him back. "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (17:22). "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe" (18:10).
Make it your desire to gain knowledge from the Lord that leads to wisdom. Then apply God's wisdom to your life every day, understanding that each day belongs to Him. Whatever you plan, be sure that God is in the middle of it - whether it is a day of work or vacation, a time with family or time spent alone or with friends ... set your heart and mind on things above and make it your goal to please the Lord today and He WILL be with you and give you a cheerful spirit to sustain you.
And remember, the tongue ... YOUR tongue ... has the power of life and death today. Use your words wisely, to build up and not tear down. Speak truth in love and ask God to use you to speak a word of encouragement or correction or peace to someone else. And be ready to listen as God sends someone else to speak to you. In so doing, you will honor the Lord and grow in wisdom as you use this day to serve Him!
"O Lord, my God, as I go through each day remind me that You have called me to be an ambassador of Your kingdom ... a kingdom so many around me do not know exists. Give me wisdom to use my words wisely and to be as ready to listen as I am to speak. Help me to discern when to hold my tongue and when to speak truth, and give me an attitude of humility and compassion toward those whom I meet. You are my God and I rest in You. May my life give You joy today, in Jesus' name, Amen"