When I was a little girl, I delighted in talking up a storm. Some of my relatives thought certainly I would become a lawyer able to argue well in court. Another thought I might become a missionary. None of these predictions came true, but I will never forget the day that my mouth got me into trouble.
Our family had gone to a nice restaurant for dinner one evening and after the bill arrived, I proceeded in my loudest voice (I was around six or seven at the time) to read the prices out loud and ask why it all cost that much. Of course, my mother quickly silenced me and told me that was not polite in a restaurant. I didn't know why? The folks around our table chuckled quite a bit, so I could not see why my mother got so excited. However, as Proverbs rightly points out: "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away." In my case, I learned and am still learning when to speak up and when to hold my tongue.
Being a good conversationalist means we have to develop the ability to listen to another person before we begin formulating what we will say in response. We rush our discussions and never give the other person a chance to really express himself. Part of this begins in the home when we do not train our children to speak with respect and wait their turn to talk.
Proverbs also gives us a picture of what happens when someone grows up without the benefit of discipline in a loving home based upon scriptural truth and the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. In chapter 18:6, we read: "A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating." That seems pretty clear. How many arguments and disputes occur when a person does not guard his words?
Another verse in the same chapter reads: "A fool's mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul" (vs. 7). Again and again, we see people say things which they later regret. Without God's wise counsel working in our lives, our mouths can betray our darkened heart of sin. Rightly Jesus said: "it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person" (Matthew 15:11).
Recently, I saw a Geico commercial that was not only funny but made a point. A man watching T.V. sees a Geico ad and tells the lady sitting next to him that a person could save 15% on car insurance. She replies that everyone knows that. He comes back with the comment, "Yes, but did you know that words can really hurt you?" The scene shifts to a cowboy leaving a pretty lady saying that he is a loner and just needs to be alone. He turns to ride off in the sunset leaving her weeping in the dust when a sign drops down that reads "The End". As the cowboy rides off, he hits the letter "E" and is knocked off his horse. Yes, it is a bad joke, but it does make a point because words do hurt more than we realize. A careless remark, a disrespectful reply, a whiny answer, or an angry accusation can all be destructive in relationships or at work. Therefore, it behooves Christians to set a guard over their lips as they go about their daily encounters. Learn to speak less and listen more.
In Proverbs 27:27-28, we gain affirmation that we need to watch our words: "Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent." As believers, we need to consider guarding our words so that what we do say will glorify God and edify others. May we take this lesson from Proverbs and allow the Spirit to apply it to our hearts. Selah!