Solomon focuses on words that lift people up. Gracious speech and wise words are “sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (verse 24).
This section deals with the words that pass our lips. It is important to consider what you say as you can never take it back. It’s like toothpaste; once it’s out of the tube it can never be put back in. It can be used for good or make a HORRIBLE mess. (After making this analogy I had to look on YouTube to see how toothpaste tubes are filled. Now I know.)
Words can build up or tear down. We actually covered this concept in Proverbs 15:1-7. Today’s verses look at the persuasive power of words. “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.” If you have ever said or heard this, you recognize the effect of gentle words. People are more willing to listen to someone who uses gentle speech rather than harsh words.
My grandchildren have not been raised with the same values my children were. That is something that I have had to leave in God’s hands and love ALL my children and grandchildren, faults and all. One thing that truly bothers me is the frequency with which they use swear words in their normal conversations. They know they are not supposed to use them at grandma and grandpa’s house but I hear them whenever we are on the phone. The other day I commented to one of my grandchildren that I really didn’t like hearing those words used so frequently. The conversation was on speaker phone at the time and his parents were also talking with me. His father FULLY agreed with my concern. We began talking about how using course language turns people away, even when you have an important point to make. I believe it is also a sign of a poor or lazy vocabulary. I don’t know if it really made a difference but at least I was heard. Hopefully it was gentle enough too to strike a chord in his heart.
Having a thought out argument is important when agreement is required. Using demanding, demeaning or dismissive words when arguing your point does NOTHING to bring another to your point of view. I learned that the hard way too. I once had to argue a point with a landlord for why he should return part of my rent. I learned from past experiences NOT to argue when I was upset. I became completely irrational and demanding. NOT a recipe for success.
When I felt my emotions beginning to boil over I asked to table the discussion for later. I then went home and wrote out the problem in clear concise language. My point was that they were receiving payment from two different sources. Mine was paid first. The second source was government help that was finally in place. They received full payment from this second source so therefore needed to refund to me the overpayment between the two sources. I brought this dispassionate breakdown to the landlord and left it with them to consider. Long story short, I was right and received the refund. Why? Because my position was reasoned out, sound and presented with “wise” words.
I have seen Satan use persuasive words too. I wish there was a formula that EVERYONE knew that would prevent perverted persuasive words from taking root in our hearts. Flattery, even if insincere, is one he likes to employ. “You are too good for these people.” “They cannot understand things as deep as you do.” “You deserve it more.” “Take care of yourself first because no one else will.”
The defining key in these verses is found in verse 20. “…and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” Here is where the words spoken can either bring death or life. It is the intent behind the words and the source from which they flow that makes the difference. This was demonstrated in the account of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness.
Satan quoted GOD’S words when speaking to Jesus. Jesus recognized the intent behind the words and was able to counter Satan’s tricks. But if He had simply accepted the words as true, it would have been disastrous. God’s words ARE true. EVERY ONE OF THEM. But they can be twisted and misapplied. I think that is one of Satan’s best tricks. How else can one account for all the different denominations and cults developed using the same words of God? Someone twisted a word here and there, or took something out of context to persuade others of their grand ideas.
Here is what I believe God would have us do. Whenever we come to His word, ask His Holy Spirit to guide us. HE is the one who wrote it so HE is the best one to interpret it. Ask His guidance in applying it to our lives as is needful for THIS day.
I have noticed that there is a LOT more in each verse than I get from them each time I come. But I cannot take it all in at once. Where my heart is at that moment in time has a lot to do with what He can teach me in that moment. I have to be ready to listen.
Being ready to listen factors into every conversation. Having the most compelling argument means nothing if you too are not willing to listen to the other person’s perspective. If you won’t listen why should you expect anyone else to listen to you? And when you DO listen, take time to consider what you have heard as well as your response. Let the Holy Spirit guide your response. Maybe it will even be changing your mind to the other person’s viewpoint.
Use kind words for you never know when you will have to eat them. Use words seasoned with wisdom, they ‘taste’ much better that way. Use words tender with love for they are much easier to swallow.
Father God, watch over my mouth AND my hands. Let me share words of love; words grounded in YOU truth. Let me always be willing to listen when someone wants to discuss a difference of opinion or interpretation. Guard my heart from false teaching without making me closed off to any challenges to my way of thinking.
Thank You Holy Spirit for speaking to me through God’s word. I would be lost without Your help. I am blind but You make me see. I was deaf but You opened my ears. I was dumb but You gave me Your words to speak. You are my Comforter and Teacher. Thank You for being patient with all my questions.