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Last week Solomon said destruction awaits those that are wicked. Followers of Christ have His righteousness and as a result have a refuge in Him. Wise people know when to demonstrate the wisdom they have obtained through knowledge in God, they don’t have to go around advertising it. A nation exalts God when it does what is right in God’s eyes. Be a good servant in the example of Christ. This morning, Solomon gives us some wisdom regarding the mouth
Here’s our passage for today found in Pro. 15:1-4: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.
A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.
We start off with an incredible principle. All of the principles in the Bible are true and most can be applied to our everyday lives. Some principles though are so incredible they really stand out. Some principles are more important than others in the Bible too. Speaking to the religious crowd of the day, Jesus said in Matt. 23:23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” Some principles are higher than others in Scripture. It doesn’t mean they’re not important. In sports you’ve heard the term most valuable player. All the players on a team are valuable. Some are more valuable. It’s the same principle here.
I think the first principle we look at today could be considered an MVP – most valuable principle. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Since gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit, every believer has the ability to put this principle into practice. Gentle means mild in temperament or behavior, not harsh or severe. This MVP can be applied in any situation where there is interaction between at least two people. When tensions rise for whatever reason, soft words can quell the strife. You’ve seen this first hand I am sure. It can be in interactions with your boss, your teacher, your coworker, your spouse, or the clerk at the store. You can diffuse the situation or you can exacerbate it. You can be a help to the situation or you can be a hindrance. Not only do you have that heavenly gift of gentleness, you also have self-control. That means you don’t have to respond the way you’re being talked to. It can be very difficult to respond gently when you’re being yelled at. Yell back and it will only get worse. I encourage you to put this into practice and watch how things change. Easy? No, but it’s definitely the best way to handle things. We have a natural way to handle things and that’s to fight back, to yell back, to respond the same, but we have something supernatural in us that gives us the ability to be different. Not only is this an MVP, it’s an excellent way to minimize the possibility of feeling horrible regret later. I know there have been times I have not responded with this principle. As I recall, it always led to conviction and deep regret. This led to doing something even harder – apologize for my ungodly behavior. It’s not always that I yelled. It’s that I used words that were not respectful or edifying. I would offer that if you can gain godly control over your tongue, your life would be incredibly transformed.
The second principle goes hand in hand with the first. “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly.” The person who uses wisdom when speaking makes the truth more palatable. Do not misunderstand; I am in no way, shape, or form saying compromise the truth or water down the truth or give partial truth. Just because something is true does not mean you need to go out of your way to provide someone that truth. I often refer to social media because it has become such a big part of our lives. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, it just is. If you want to test what Solomon is saying, post something that is absolutely true in accordance with Scripture and watch the attacks start. Keep in mind that you put this on your own Facebook page and depending on your privacy settings, the hateful comments will start rolling in. Many of these comments come from your friends. So you have to ask yourself, who are you allowing in your life and why? Use wisdom when speaking the truth. There are appropriate times and places to share the truth. As a pastor and Chaplain, I’m often called into action in some of the most tragic situations. Suicides. Marital strife or domestic violence. Fatal accidents. Unruly children and cheating spouses. I have learned and continue to learn discretion when dealing with these events. I have learned that speaking the truth even while preaching can be hurtful to hear. I’m not going to not tell the truth, but I want to exercise wisdom in doing so. I want to be careful so that people will hear the truth that can set them free in order to change their lives. It is that serious. Fools just say whatever comes to mind. No filter, no discretion, no thought. That’s because what’s inside will come out.
Solomon shifts from the tongue to God’s eyes and in the next verse says you can run, but you can’t hide. There are some people that are convinced God doesn’t know what’s going on in the world or else He would do something about it. There is nowhere that God is not. There is nothing that God does not see. Solomon says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.” There’s a song I remember from 1984 where the bridge lyrics are, “I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me and I have no privacy. Oh, I always feel like somebody’s watching me. Tell me is it just a dream?” God is always watching, but not in a creepy, voyeuristic way. I encourage you to read Ps. 139 which is a wonderful testimony of David regarding God’s omniscience and omnipresence. There is no where you can go where God is not there. He watches the good and the evil. The righteous will be rewarded while the wicked will be punished. In my study of Scriptures, I am filled with an overwhelming sense that the biblical writers expected people who have an authentic relationship with Christ will do good; they’ll behave in manners that are pleasing to God, that will seek to do His will, that will seek to further His Kingdom; they will seek to passionately walk the straight and narrow path – that’s what I see modeled over and over in Scripture.
It’s only been in recent times that we have taken on a lackadaisical attitude in our commitment to Christ. It’s only recently that we’re satisfied with mediocrity, where Christ has taken a back seat to the things of this world. It’s only recently that people have become satisfied in meeting with Jesus on occasion so we have to ask ourselves, what has changed? Heb. 13:8 reminds us that, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” God calls Himself, “I am” present tense. Since God has not changed, we can only conclude that we have changed. The same Holy Spirit exists with the same power so how can we get to a place where His power is restored? I think a primary thing we can do is say no to ourselves and say yes to Jesus. I have grown weary of professing believers that ignore biblical wisdom, that have beliefs based on popular opinion and cultural feelings, that say one thing and do another. I would never suggest doing this, but I wonder how our marriages would be destroyed if we approached our spouse with the same casualness we approach God. God sees the evil and good in the world and He understands why people do what they do, He sees into the secret areas of your life, the places you don’t want anyone else to go. What totally amazes me when I think like this is that God still has an infinite, unconditional love for you and for me. He loves the righteous and the unrighteous.
And now it’s back to the tongue. Many of us are familiar with the tree of life in Gen. 2:9. Solomon has also spoken of a tree of life. He called wisdom a tree of life in 3:18. He said the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life in 11:30. He spoke of fulfilled desire as a tree of life in 13:12. And now, “A soothing tongue is a tree of life.” Like the heart, when Scripture speaks of the tongue, it’s rarely talking about what’s in your mouth. It’s about the words you say. Those words can bring comfort to a grieving soul. Those words can bring the Gospel that will revive a dead soul, can bring encouragement to a weary soul, can bring correction to a wayward soul; those words can bring reconciliation to a troubled soul. The contrast is that, “Perversion in it crushes the spirit.” Perverse here is used in the sense of perverting the truth. It means to twist or distort. These perversions have been used since the garden when Satan told Eve, “You surely will not die.” (Gen. 3:4) Satan is a twistilator. He has been and continues to be the greatest perverter of all time. He has perverted sexuality. In fact, he perverted it so bad that God had to include specific details as to what was forbidden when He gave the Law to Moses. Our speech is to be used to praise the Lord and build people up, but he perverted that so much that we have numerous passages directly referencing how we talk. Paul said, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29) Satan also perverted justice. From the deceptive business practices we saw in Pro. 11:1 to the killing of innocent people mentioned in Ex. 23. Our attitude should be like that found in Is. 1:17, “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”
There are tried and true principles in Scripture. MVPs. Use them not as magical incantations, but as principles that God gave us to live by and glorify Him. There is nowhere out of God’s eye or beyond His reach. Use your speech to edify people and draw them to live passionately for Christ. Don’t be shocked that Satan wants to twist everything you say or do. Keep moving forward for Christ.