|INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDIES|
LESSON FOR AUGUST 16, 1998
Be Careful What You Say
KEY VERSE: “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” —Proverbs 15:1
SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Proverbs 11:12,13; 13:3; 15:1,2,23,28; 17:27
THE SCRIPTURES ARE replete with references to both the good as well as the evil that proceeds from men’s mouths. The tongue, although a very small part of the physical body, is a force of such magnitude that the Apostle James likens it to a relatively small and seemingly insignificant rudder that guides the course of a great ship. He further states, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.”—James 3:4,5
The focus of this lesson is on both positive and negative aspects of the use of the tongue. First, we are told that our mouths must never be used in the act of talebearing. Busybodying, or gossiping, is abhorrent to God, because it seeks to destroy a man’s character, rather than to build it up. It may be true. It may be false. But it is never acceptable to God. Rather, Solomon says, “He that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.”—Prov. 11:13
To properly use our tongues requires much watchfulness and self-examination. “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.” (Prov. 13:3) This verse points out that our mouths can lead us in one of two directions: toward life, or toward destruction. Those who properly examine the words they might speak, and keep them as close as possible to those of their perfect pattern, Jesus, will be walking toward life. What kind of words did Jesus speak? “All bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.” (Luke 4:22) Contrariwise, those who keep no watch on their lips will have much difficulty in their efforts to please God.
A further point of this lesson is in regard to the manner of our speech. Is it filled with love, tenderness, and consideration for others? Or is it harsh, critical, cold and calculating?
Many times the same words can be said in such different tones, or with mannerisms that make the message given by such words and the way they are received by the hearers, entirely dissimilar. Truly, it is written, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”—Prov. 15:1
The proper and careful use of our tongues can be a great blessing to others. “A word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (Prov. 15:23) Our Lord, the apostles, and other writers of the Holy Scriptures, are great examples of how the words of our mouths can be of value and blessing to those who hear them.
The lesson at hand is not that we cease from using our mouths, but that we steer their use toward more and more of those things which bring honor and glory to God, and are a help and encouragement to those around us. “That we … speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”—Eph. 4:14,15
This wise and proper use of our tongues does not come naturally because of our fleshly weakness. The more we study the faithful ones of old, and gain thereby greater insight into the knowledge of God and his ways, the better enabled we will be to use our tongues aright, and to refrain from speaking when it might engender strife. We must spare our words.—Prov. 17:27
We gain the ability to know when and what to speak only by prayer and constant diligence that our words may be acceptable to God.—Ps. 19:14