We are apt, perhaps moreso in this country than elsewhere, to underestimate the consequence of our words. Even as Christians, we downplay the seriousness of speech. We ourselves may not consider our words all that important, but the Lord has made a shocking promise to us: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37). Yes, the living God keeps a constant voice recording of every word we speak. This heavenly recording of our words is so real that, on the day of judgment, every single word will be replayed to us, except for those from which we have sincerely repented. So pivotal are the words we speak daily that the Lord can accurately judge us to heaven or hell merely by our words! If that fact alone will not make us slow to speak, I don’t know what will.
Today, we should be stunned to see how much of God’s wisdom and instruction for us is directly related to speech. From the first words of Proverbs chapter 27, we are told, “Do not boast about tomorrow,” and then, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth” (27:1-2). In verse 5, we are told that open rebuke is better than hidden love. In other words, a friend who openly points out our faults and happily corrects and even rebukes us, is more profitable to us than a friend who claims great affection for us but never acts on it. Here, we see that gracious words are not counted in our favor at all, if our actions tell a different story. Also in reference to our words, we read, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (27:6). A faithful friend will hurt our feelings with truth that we need to hear, but an enemy will seduce our souls with flattery only to serve their own purposes. Speaking of flattery, the LORD goes so far as to say that, when we receive praise, God is testing the quality of our character (27:21). The proud person will become puffed up and boast, while those who fear the LORD will humble themselves and give the praise to God instead. Knowing this, we must ask ourselves, what type of person are we proving to be? Let us be ready to relinquish and credit every word of praise we receive to God. As the worship song says, “Every praise is to our God.”
In the pursuit of right relationships, we also see that speech is extremely important. A proper friendship involves mutual appreciation, which makes one open to the other’s counsel. If a friend is wise and trustworthy, their counsel is as sweet as “oil and perfume” (27:9). On the other hand, verse 14 says that if a friend shouts blessings to you before the sun rises, you would consider it a curse! Finally, in a pure father-son relationship, the father invests love and instruction into his child. He leads his son toward wisdom, in hopes that the child chooses the wisdom of God all the days of his life. If a child chooses wisdom, it brings confident gladness to the father; accusations and criticisms will not defeat him. There will be a reply on his lips about the fruit of his labors in raising wise children (27:11). So much of the conflict and commotion of the world ought to dissolve from our concern if we can see a heritage of godliness passed down to our children. There is great joy in having a testimony of God’s power on our lips when devils and critics would plant a seed of discouragement.
Having heard the wisdom of God on all these specifics, let our aim be to keep Ephesians 4:29 in view: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Father, may our speech today give grace to the hearers. Help us, Holy Spirit, not just to say what we feel like saying, but to offer words that build up the people you place around us! Keep us from words that are just going to corrupt us. We pray this in the mighty Name of Jesus Christ! Amen.
The Rock Church