When you read the book of Proverbs, it becomes quite obvious that the main theme of the book is “wisdom.” However, most people would never guess the second most common theme addressed in Proverbs. It is our words, our speech.
Our words have great power to influence others and our relationships with them. They can build up, give hope, and greatly encourage. They can inspire someone to soar. At the same time, they can tear down, deflate, hurt, and even destroy someone.
In order to truly understand the power of words, historians will tell you one of the most powerful orators of all time was Adolph Hitler. He mesmerized the German people with his words and convinced them to allow him to be their dictator.
If we desire for our speech to be effective in the lives of others, I would ask you to consider this wise counsel given by Solomon.
- Proverbs 12:17 says that it is imperative for our words to be truthful. Trust is the foundation of all relationships. Not only can you not have healthy, vibrant, relationships without trust, you cannot have a stable community.
- Proverbs 15:1 says “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” What is more effective in persuasion – calm, gentle words or angry yelling? That does not mean your words can’t be pointed or argumentative, but its tone should be calm. In any type of confrontation, I have always found that thoughtful, measured words are much more likely to produce light and not heat.
- Proverbs 10:32 says that our words should be “fitting.” This is referring to the importance of speaking wisely, using words that are appropriate. Wise people know how to use good timing, where a fool has the tendency to say the right things at the wrong time or wrong place.
- In Proverbs 27:5 and 28:23, it speaks of being direct and forthright with your words, with a willingness to confront and speak the truth into someone’s life. This is very hard for many people. A person who is very direct can have difficulty being calm and gentle with his words. On other hand, those who use kind and gentle words, often have a difficult time being direct. They have a problem confronting. The most effective people in life are able to do both.
- Proverbs 10:19 speaks of the problem of those gregarious people who talk too much. Up until this point we have talked about the importance of having speech that is truthful, gentle, wise, and direct. You are going to have trouble with all of these if you talk too much. The more you speak, the more likely you are to be a nuisance and to make a fool of yourself. It is hard for people to take you seriously. Eventually they will stop listening. So you need balance, because you also do not want to be too shy, never speaking up, never effectively speaking into the lives of others.
Jesus reveals something very significant about our words. In Mathew 12:33 he tells us “… a tree is known by its fruit.” And then he says in the next verse, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” A person’s words are what flows naturally from the heart. Because of that, you can learn a great deal about a person from their words.
People ultimately evaluate us by our words and actions, but as adults primarily by our words. The question is, when people hear the words that come out of our mouths, what do they hear? Do we honor God with our words? Do our words give testimony to our faith? James addresses this (1:26) and says if our words do not reflect our faith, then we are deceiving ourselves and our faith is worthless.