A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
2 The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
3 The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
5 A fool spurns a parent’s discipline,
but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.
6 The house of the righteous contains great treasure,
but the income of the wicked brings ruin.
7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge,
but the hearts of fools are not upright.
8 The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked,
but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
9 The Lord detests the way of the wicked,
but he loves those who pursue righteousness.
10 Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path;
the one who hates correction will die.
11 Death and Destruction lie open before the Lord—
how much more do human hearts!
12 Mockers resent correction,
so they avoid the wise.
13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
but heartache crushes the spirit.
14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.
15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
16 Better a little with the fear of the Lord
than great wealth with turmoil.
17 Better a small serving of vegetables with love
than a fattened calf with hatred.
18 A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,
but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.
19 The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns,
but the path of the upright is a highway.
20 A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish man despises his mother.
21 Folly brings joy to one who has no sense,
but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.
22 Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.
23 A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—
and how good is a timely word!
24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent
to keep them from going down to the realm of the dead.
25 The Lord tears down the house of the proud,
but he sets the widow’s boundary stones in place.
26 The Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked,
but gracious words are pure in his sight.
27 The greedy bring ruin to their households,
but the one who hates bribes will live.
28 The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,
but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.
29 The Lord is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
30 Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart,
and good news gives health to the bones.
31 Whoever heeds life-giving correction
will be at home among the wise.
32 Those who disregard discipline despise themselves,
but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.
33 Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord,
and humility comes before honor.
As we look at how to move past a “good enough” life towards a “greater” life, we are considering ways to have a Jesus-like influence on those around us. One sure and relatively simple way to influence those around you is to speak life. Speak truth, love, beauty, wholeness, encouragement, wisdom, and healing. Read the text above and count how many times the tongue, words, wisdom, the mouth, etc. are mentioned for good and bad. The Bible has a lot of instruction about how we speak. The writers of these ancient texts understood the power of our words. We understand it as well, but we often forget. And honestly, it’s hard to speak life if your heart is full of death. “Death” may seem like a harsh word here, but our words really can cause our soul to die a little bit, one awful, negative word at a time.
The author of Luke, expanding on a scripture in Proverbs 4, tells us, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” So if you want to change your words, try focusing on the heart first. Practically changing your speech is a good start, but you can’t force yourself to say kind words for long, your heart will catch up to you, and most people will see right through your false self anyway. Go back to the beginning, fall more in love with God and your heart will begin to fill with life. Spend time with God, whose very name is Love, your heart will begin to change, and your words will follow.
If you seek to have Christ-like influence with those around you (remember the list we made on Monday), then speaking life is essential. Because you’re influencing them either way. Is it for life or is it for death?
Dear Lord, you came as a humble servant, and you call us to follow your life and example. Show me how to listen to your voice, not the voice of culture. Guide me past settling for “good enough,” and into the greater life you call me to. Give me humility, courage and grace in this journey. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.