Every human being carries on his or her person an extremely useful and powerful tool. Or depending on how it's used, a very potent, piercingly sharp and potentially deadly weapon.
It's the tongue.
The Scriptures are filled with nuggets of wisdom about this seemingly unstoppable force. Here's a little snippet.
- James 3:6-7 - How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
- Proverbs 15:1 - A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
- Proverbs 16:21 - The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
- Proverbs 17:27 - Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
- Proverbs 18:6-7 - A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.
- Proverbs 18:13 - If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
There are of course many more, but you get the idea. The words we say have potential to bring great harm or great comfort. With the tongue you can set a forest on fire, or you can douse flames of destruction.
So the wisdom we gain from scripture is simply this: We need to think before we speak! We need to consider the reality that God gave us two ears and only one mouth (James 1:19). Consider that we might not have all the details and opening our mouth may only make us look like a fool. Consider that freedom of speech doesn't always mean we should speak freely. And maybe most importantly, consider others as higher than ourself (Philippians 2:3). Oh how much damage would be prevented if we would only consider others before ourselves.
Praise be to God that Jesus never uttered an imperfect word. He did this in our place. In light of the finished work and words of Jesus, think about what you say. It might just save you from your ruin.