Tag Archives: taming the tongue

Proverbs Project: Wise & Foolish Words

Proverbs related to the wise or foolish use of speech:


Proverbs 10:6
Blessings crown the head of the righteous,
but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.


Proverbs 10:10-11
10 Whoever winks maliciously causes grief,
and a chattering fool comes to ruin.
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
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Taming the Tongue: Principles From Proverbs

As I mentioned here, I’m preaching on the topic of Taming the Tongue based on James 3:1-12 this Sunday at Lake Merced. Here are a few Scriptures I noted as I read through the book of Proverbs this morning. Most deal directly with speech, but I also picked a few out that deal with responding wisely to rebuke (since a truly tamed tongue will sometimes be forced to rebuke others as I mentioned in the first post).

Proverbs 1:7
7          The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

 Proverbs 5:1-4
1          My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight,
2          that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.
3          For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil;
4          but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.

 Proverbs 6:1-5
1          My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have struck hands in pledge for another,
2          if you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth,
3          then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor!
4          Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids.
5          Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.
Proverbs 8:1-9
1          Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?
2          On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
3          beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud:
4          “To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.
5          You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding.
6          Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right.
7          My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.
8          All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse.
9          To the discerning all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge.

 Proverbs 9:7-9
7          “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.
8          Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.
9          Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. 

Proverbs 10:8
8          The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin. 

Proverbs 10:11
11        The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked. 

Proverbs 10:19-21
19        When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
20        The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.
21        The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.

Proverbs 11:9
9          With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape. 

Proverbs 11:12-13
12        A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.
13        A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret. 

Proverbs 12:1
1          Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. 

Proverbs 12:6
6          The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them. 

Proverbs 12:14
14        From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him. 

Proverbs 12:15
15        The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. 

Proverbs 12:18
18        Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. 

Proverbs 12:19
19        Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. 

Proverbs 12:22
22        The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful. 

Proverbs 12:25
25        An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.

Proverbs 13:1
1          A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke. 

Proverbs 13:3
3          He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. 

Proverbs 13:10
10        Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. 

Proverbs 13:13
13        He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded. 

Proverbs 13:14
14        The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. 

Proverbs 13:18
18        He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored. 

Proverbs 13:20
20        He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. 

Proverbs 14:3
3          A fool’s talk brings a rod to his back, but the lips of the wise protect them. 

Proverbs 14:7
7          Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips. 

Proverbs 15:1
1          A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 

Proverbs 15:2
2          The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. 

Proverbs 15:4
4          The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. 

Proverbs 15:10
10        Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path; he who hates correction will die. 

Proverbs 15:12
12        A mocker resents correction; he will not consult the wise. 

Proverbs 15:28
28        The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. 

Proverbs 15:31-32
31        He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.
32        He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding. 

Proverbs 16:23
23        A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction. 

Proverbs 16:27-28
27        A scoundrel plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.
28        A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends. 

Proverbs 17:4
4          A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue. 

Proverbs 17:27
27        A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. 

Proverbs 17:28
28        Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. 

Proverbs 18:2
2          A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. 

Proverbs 18:6-8
6          A fool’s lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating.
7          A fool’s mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul.
8          The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. 

Proverbs 18:20-21
20        From the fruit of his mouth a man’s stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied.
21        The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. 

Proverbs 19:1-2
1          Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse.
2          It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way. 

Proverbs 19:16
16        He who obeys instructions guards his life, but he who is contemptuous of his ways will die. 

Proverbs 19:20
20        Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. 

Proverbs 20:19
19        A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much. 

Proverbs 21:11
11        When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom; when a wise man is instructed, he gets knowledge. 

Proverbs 21:23
23        He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity. 

Proverbs 23:9
9          Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words. 

Proverbs 24:1-2
1          Do not envy wicked men, do not desire their company;
2          for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble. 

Proverbs 24:28
28        Do not testify against your neighbor without cause, or use your lips to deceive. 

Proverbs 25:11-12
11        A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
12        Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear. 

Proverbs 26:4-5
4          Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.
5          Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. 

Proverbs 26:7
7          Like a lame man’s legs that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. 

Proverbs 26:9
9          Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. 

Proverbs 26:22
22        The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. 

Proverbs 26:23-25
23        Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart.
24        A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit.
25        Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart. 

Proverbs 26:28
28        A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin. 

Proverbs 28:5
5          Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully. 

Proverbs 28:13
13        He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. 

Proverbs 28:14
14        Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble. 

Proverbs 28:23
23        He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue. 

Proverbs 29:1
1          A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed– without remedy. 

Proverbs 29:20
20        Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him. 

Proverbs 30:5-6
5          “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
6          Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar. 

Proverbs 30:10-11
10        “Do not slander a servant to his master, or he will curse you, and you will pay for it.
11        “There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers; 

Proverbs 31:26 [speaking of a virtuous wife]
26        She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

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Taming the Tongue … Me? Really?

When I arrived at my parents house in Arkansas the other day, a manila envelope was sitting on the counter with my name on it. I chuckled a little when I saw it, because a very large stamp on the front of the envelope said in big, capital letters, “DO NOT FOLD.”  

It was folded in half.

Anyway, this envelope was from the American Legion National Headquarters Benefit Department. Curious, I opened it to see what they were selling.

I was surprised to find a very nice certificate that read as follows:

In gratitude for your war-time service
This certifies that
upon meeting the strict requirements set forth by the
Congress of the United States of America
shall thereby be accepted for
Official Membership in
The American Legion

 This certificate had the seal of the American Legion on it, and was signed by Billy R. Johnson – the A.L. membership director.

“Well looky there,” I thought. “I’ve been nominated to be an official member of the American Legion due to my war-time service … what an honor!”

… there’s just one problem – I’ve never even been in the military, much less performed any type of war-time service (besides praying for friends and family in Iraq).

I did enlist in the Marine Corps in my early twenties shortly after the Iraq War began (I was tired of my parents and everyone else telling me what to do, so I joined the Marines), but didn’t make it past the physical because of high blood pressure. There must have been a mix-up somewhere that led to my getting this certificate.

I kidded with Airiel that I was going to frame it and hang it on my wall. “Who knows, maybe I’ll run for public office someday and this will help,” I joked.

What would hanging that certificate on my office wall make me … you know, if I were really trying to get people to believe I was an old war hero (and don’t say John Kerry)? It would make me a first-rate _____________?

You got it – a first-rate hypocrite.

I’m preaching next Sunday in San Francisco from James 3:1-12.

That means I’ll be getting up in front of a group of people in San Francisco to teach them about taming the tongue. I sort of feel like a hypocrite speaking about this, because my speech is something that I struggle with.

No, I don’t mean I cuss or use profanity or anything like that. I certainly used to, but don’t anymore. I don’t mean that I tell crude jokes either – I really don’t.

But here’s what I do struggle with: 1) Sometimes I say too much, and 2) sometimes I don’t say enough.

I find my tongue to be like that horse at summer camp that the counselors would always put the mean kids on that they secretly wanted to kill. You know, the horse that would randomly take off running through the woods scaring the little kid riding it half to death, or that other horse. You remember, the one that, no matter how much you tried, you couldn’t get it to get it to move. It’d sit there with this bored look on it’s face like it was just waiting to die and you were somehow hindering the process.

Let me explain: there have been times when I’ve really let people have it verbally when I shouldn’t have. I’m a passionate guy (no excuse), my tongue gets away from me sometimes, and folks have been left hurt and scarred by my sin.

But there have also been times when something really should have been said to someone in order to help them (like when they were involved in something that was killing them spiritually or hurting others), but instead I ignored the problem hoping it would simply go away and it ended badly for that person or others.

I googled “taming the tongue,” and found images like these:

As these images communicate, when a lot of people think about taming the tongue, they think about shutting up and that’s it.

But learning to “shut up” when you need to is only part of taming the tongue … you’re really dealing with two extremes. An untamed tongue doesn’t just say too much – it also says too little.

The trick to taming the tongue is to find balance between the two extremes like Jesus did.

Jesus held His tongue when He needed to, but Jesus also let people have it when He needed to as well. He didn’t verbally lash others for His own selfish pleasure or to be mean, malicious, or hateful, but because He loved them and wanted to see them change. Their own actions (or inaction) were destroying them and leading others to destruction as well.

He didn’t cuss them out, but He did use some fairly biting adjectives to describe them (brood of vipers, whitewashed tombs, etc.), spoke frankly about their sin, what the result would be unless they repented (their destruction), and warned others not to be like them in their unrepentant state.

Ultimately, Jesus desired relationships with those He spoke with like this, but knew that in order for true fellowship to exist between them and Himself, they had to repent of their sins.

I can give you plenty of examples of situations I’ve been in where my untamed tongue has been revealed, but don’t want this post to become too long, and would really rather here from you instead.

Do you struggle with taming your tongue? Care to share any specific examples or stories with me? Any tips for someone struggling with taming their tongue?

Thanks for your help – if you give me some good stories or illustrations I may use them in my sermon.

I’ll be meditating on this issue for the next few days.

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