The greatest number of warnings we are given by the ancient school of wisdom concerns our use of words. Our culture has too many words (a sign of its foolishness according to Proverbs) so we are prone to thinking our words matter less than they do. But our words matter because we do. [Audio | Notes]
For further thought
Readings: 5:16-19, 6:12-14 (troublemaker – stirs conflict and deceit) | 6:16-19 (7 hated things: three of them are word sins) | 10:21 (nourishing words) | 11:9 (the mouths of the godless) | 12:17,18 | 15:18 | 17:4 (the wicked listen to deceptive lips) | 18:21 (tongue has power of life and death) | 29:5 (flattering as a form of lying that destroys)
Words are more powerful than we think because we are more significant than we think. Proverbs 18:21, like so much of Proverbs, takes us back to the start of the book of Genesis where the origins of life and death are described. Both come about through the use of words. We are made in the image of the speaking God (Genesis 1:26) and therefore our words can be used with great power to either heal or harm. In Proverbs our wisdom and folly are expressed primarily in words. This is why words, and how we use them is the largest theme in Proverbs.
Q: How have you seen words build up?
Q: How have you seen words tear down?
Q: Why are words so powerful in our lives?
Below are characteristics of foolish and wise words from the book of Proverbs. Look up the readings and meditate upon why God has given us these words to learn from.
The words of the fool
Reckless, thoughtless and careless – 12:18, 18:2,3
Lies in many forms – 18.8, 29; 29:5; 24:12; 16:27
Ineffective words – 14:23; 26:23-38; 29:12; 9:7,8; 17:4
The words of the wise
Honest and bold – 16:3; 25:12; 27:5,6; 28:23
Few rare and precious – 10:14,19; 13:3; 17:28
Bring peace – 15:1; 16:32; 17:27; 25:15
Are apt/beautiful – 10:20; 15:23; 25:11
Take work – 2:6; 15:28
Bear fruit – 12:14; 14:5; 15:45
God creates by speaking (Genesis 1) and redeems creation by sending his Son as the Word (John 1:1-14). God gives us his words in the Bible to teach, encourage, rebuke and form us (Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 4:1-5)… how do our words work with God’s creative and redeeming words and how do they work against them?