Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Power of the Tongue

The Power of the Tongue

A BIG yawn

From the fruit of his mouth a man's stomach is satisfied;
he is filled with the products of his lips.
Life and death are in the power of the tongue, 
and those who love it will eat its fruit.   –– Proverbs 18:20-21


This is a pretty weighty proverb for our second look at the tongue.  First of all, lets look at the old Testament book of Proverbs in general.  Proverbs is one of the three Bible books called Wisdom Literature.  These three books are Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job.  Wisdom literature is poetry. The poetry and wisdom also appears in Psalms, Genesis, Isaiah, Song of Solomon, the Gospel, James and other scriptures.  One of the main characteristics of poetry in the Scriptures is parallelism.  Parallelism is a construction of words in which one line is repeated, contrasted or advanced by the word of the following line.  Biblical poetry does not have word rhyme or rhythm so a sense of rhythm is created by thought. Knowing that the scripture uses parallelism is often a key in its interpretation.  The three main types of parallelism are: Synonymous parallelism, Antithetic parallelism and Synthetic parallelism.  The wisdom literature also uses metaphors, similes, puns and other figures of speech. Hopefully we will look at these in a later blog.

The book Proverbs is both poetry and wisdom literature.  Wisdom is very experiential.  It is often is a characteristic of an older person. Hopefully, a longer life will expose one to more experiences and increase their wisdom. A wise person observes and learns how to live a happy and successful life amidst everyday challenges.  Wisdom is more than intelligence. Wisdom encompasses discipline, knowledge, prudence, and other virtues. The book of Proverbs was written by Solomon and he received his wisdom as a gift from God.  The Bible tell us that true wisdom comes from God: For the Lord gives wisdom;  from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.  Proverbs 2:6  God's wisdom includes

The verses in Proverbs are not promises.  Proverbs draw on observation and experiences to instruct people on how this world works.  Some behaviors and character traits often bring good results and God's blessings.  Other behavior patterns and behaviors bring failure and trouble.  The wise person will heed the knowledge found in Proverbs to put them on the path of more probable success. David Jeremiah writes:
This book is unique in that, while it was written by and for those who are the faithful of God, many of its principles will bear fruit in the life of anyone who practices them. Proverbs reminds us that “all truth is God’s truth.” If a non-believer “turns away wrath” with a “soft answer” Proverbs 15:1, it is because that law of relationships is as certain as the law of gravity. Though they don’t know it, when non-believers practice the truths of Proverbs they are treading on holy ground.
While the gems in Proverbs are useful to all they were written for God's chosen people. They were written by the gifted Solomon and inspired by God.  The central and recurring theme in Proverbs is that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge.  God is sovereign. God's will is always done.  The Proverbs are not methods or laws with guaranteed results. They are not "do this and this will happen" promises. The wisdom of the Proverbs will aid the believer to stay on the right path and walk more closely with God.  We will look at some verses about the tongue in Proverbs, James and other Scriptures, God willing.

From the fruit of his mouth a man's stomach is satisfied; he is filled with the products of his lips.
Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.   – Proverbs 18:20-21  These two proverbs are a pair that fit well together.  They both refer to speech.  They describe two aspects of speech. These two aspects of speech fight against each other. The words one speak can be either satisfying, or the cause of death.  The tongue can either dispense life or death.

From the fruit of his mouth a man's stomach is satisfied; he is filled with the products of his lips. Proverbs 18:20  Two images are used in the first of these two proverbs.  The fruit of the mouth and the harvest of the lips. These two images  (mouth and lips) are metonymies (a substitution of the name of an attribute for that of the thing meant).  They are synonymous for representation of speech.  Fruit from the orchard and products (wheat, barley) from the field.  Both speak of productive speech. Fruit and field products do not just happen.  Fruit results over a period of time. It is planted, tended and cultivated over a period of time.  The type of speech that you constantly use will determine the quality of the fruit or wheat.  If you speech is wicked you will be filled with depravity.  If your speech is honorable you will be filled with the good things you need.  Productive speech is  satisfying  and it meets the basic needs of life. There is a practical return for beneficial words. Likewise there is a return for derogatory words. The type of words you cultivate will determine return the quality of the harvest.  Good and true words will lead to a warm and comforting satisfaction. 

Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18: 21
One's speech can do either good or harm. You should be cautious with your speech and determine the direction you want your speech to take.  You can do a great deal of harm by the use of your tongue. You can also choose to use your tongue for good.  From the same tongue you can curse or comfort.  It seems that the old adage – Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me. – is not at all true.  Words can and do hurt. The hurt can be deep and lasting.   Notice the little word "it" in the verse above.  It refers to words, speech and the tongue.  If you love talking, engage in it frequently, you will have to eat the fruit of your words. I don't know about you but sometimes the fruit of my words would be quite bitter and nasty. There are consequences to your talking, watch your words. Jesus said: I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:36-37

Life and death are literally within the power of the tongue.  The announcement of the decision by a jury can be one of life or death.  A counselor can give hopeful words to a suicidal client.  A weather warning can save lives. The tongue can cause an action the encourages life or promotes death.  Spiritually, the power of the tongue  mirrors what is in the heart.  Guard your speech.  You will have to eat your own words and the taste may not be to your liking.   Do your word bring life or death?  Do they give hope or discouragement?  Listen to what others say, but also listen to what you say.  Also, remember to speak the good Word of the Gospel.  Those words could help to bring everlasting life to those who hear it. But will they listen if the fruit of your words are spoiled and bitter?


A Greek Philosopher once asked his servant to provide the best dish possible. The servant prepared a dish of tongue, saying, "It is the best of all dishes, because with it we may bless and communicate happiness, dispel sorrow, remove despair, cheer the faint hearted, inspire the discouraged, and say a hundred other things to uplift mankind."

Later the same philosopher asked his servant to provide the worst dish of which he could think. A dish of tongue appeared on the table. The servant said, "It is the worst, because with it we may curse and break human hearts; destroy reputations; promote discord and strife; set families, communities, and nations at war with each other."

He was a wise servant.

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