The chronological reading list has me reading straight through Proverbs. Reading chapter after chapter has helped me pick up on one of the major themes of Proverbs, watching what we say. Proverbs again and again mentions our mouths, lips, words, etc. It is clear that the author thought it was important that people that people be careful with the words they say. Here are just 10 of the "watch what you say" proverbs from chapters 10-15 with commentary in italics:
10:11 - "The mouth of the righteous is a foundation of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked."
I appreciate the imagery here. The words of the righteous nourish and give life to those around them while the words of the wicked are violent. I picture demons and devils pouring from the mouth of the wicked.
(A truly wicked mouth)
10:14 - "Wise men store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin."
We all know that our words can ruin us. Clamp down on that tongue! Think before you speak!
10:19 - "When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise."
This is so powerful, driving home the point that our loose tongues bring down sin upon us.
10:21a - "The lips of the righteous nourish many..."
This states point blank what I was saying about 10:11. Our good words nourish others. At the same time...
11:9a - "With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor..."
Our words can also destroy. A lie, a secret told that is no ones business but the owner of the secret, a half-truth, a false accusation can destroy.
11:11 - "Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed."
Words are so powerful that they can bless or bring down an entire city (or even a nation).
11:12 - "A man who lacks judgements derides his neighbor, but a man of judgement holds his tongue."
Now this one is really important. I think of deriding someone as talking bad about them. Just like, "I can't believe so-and-so said that (says the gossip, ironically)" or "I can't believe so-and-so did that." If you can't say something nice...
12:22 - "The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful."
BAM! God DETESTS lying lips. Hates them! Don't lie! You want God to love your lips (just like Larry loves his)
13:3 - "He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin."
Your LIFE is tied to your words. Wow.
15:4 - "The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit."
Again, the power of words, but just to destroy but to bring life. The tree of life is a powerful image, found both in Genesis and Revelation. This isn't a throw-away line.
(A different Tree of Life, the one found at Disney's Animal Kingdom.)
I know I need to get better at holding my tongue, at keeping my mouth shut and not saying bad things about people. I know that when I do it, it is to make myself look good. That is selfish, it is sinful, and it has to stop. Please, if you hear me doing anything like this, if you hear me use my words to destroy instead of to bring life, please take me aside and correct me. I don't want to be the person who people think, "I wonder what he says about me when I'm not around." I want to be the man, that when I die, people say "I never heard him say a bad thing about anybody."