In order to understand a little clearer what we shall be talking about on this side of the tape, let us turn to the Epistle of James. James is the Book of Proverbs of the New Testament. You will find many proverbial statements in James. James Chapter 3 Verses 2 to 12:-
- For we all stumble in many ways. If any one does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they may obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Behold, the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder, wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Neither can salt water produce fresh.
The tongue. The wise man is known by his mouth. Our speech is the mirror of our spirit. This is one of the great themes of Proverbs. The wise man that we were speaking of on side 1 of this tape is known as soon as he opens or does not open his mouth. The mouth gives the whole game away. Every time we open our mouths, our spirits shine out. Let us look at what a word is. God created with words. I feel that we overlook this so many times. The great moment of Creation was when God said ‘Let there be light’. In fact the Hebrew there is a lot pithier: actually God said, Light, be!’ It was not even ‘let there be’; just ‘Light, be!’ And light was. The whole of Creation was accomplished by ten creative words.
God does not do anything without first commanding it. The creative process results from what is said. Words are creative. Jesus did not come before God said so. Prophecy is not merely letting us know in advance; prophecy is the Word of God by which everything must happen. So when Isaiah said that a virgin would conceive and bear a son, God was saying what would be. You can see that all through Scripture. Nothing was done by God without His commanding it. When God was going to judge a nation He always had a prophet to say that that was the way it was going to be. Whenever He was about to take Israel into captivity, His prophets foretold it. I want to engrain deeply into us the law that God never does anything except by His Word. The saying of it is the creative process.
Words are the expression, the manifestation of the omnipotence of God. When there was nothing, when there was not even space, there came the sound of God’s words. And at the sound, things were. When God made man, He gave man the ability of speech. No other creature has that ability; only God and man do. Parrots and myna birds may be able to imitate speech, but they cannot originate it. They cannot make up new words. When you teach your baby to speak, and he repeats the words that you say, it is not very long before he is saying words that you did not teach him. Rapidly he develops his own vocabulary. But your myna bird will only repeat what you taught it. It will not originate its own vocabulary. I shall say it again: only God speaks, and the one creature that was made in His image. We are more like God in our ability to speak than we are in any other part of our person.
It is a fact of our meeting together that I am speaking and communicating my inmost self to you; and you are hearing it, you are understanding it. We have made communication. On this planet we are the only ones who can do that. All other creatures are mere creatures. We are made in the image of God, and it is in our ability to speak that that shows the most. But of course we do not even notice it. We chatter away without even realizing what we are doing. And being made in the image of God, we were made to be creators. You are a creator. You might not like that responsibility, but you are a creator. Made in the image of God, we are creators, and we create with our words. There is nothing that man does that does not begin in the words that he speaks. Notice that in the Gospels that Jesus, when speaking of faith, said that faith operates by whatever we say. [See for example Matthew Chapter 17 Verse 20, or Chapter 7 Verse 8.] You shall have whatever you say. You are a creator every time you open your mouth.
That is an awesome responsibility. If I am the wise man – that is, if I am under the authority of God – then all of my words will create good things. I will be a reflector of the Good Creator. But if I am the fool – that is, if I am not under the control of God and I am speaking out of my independent self – then my words are still creative, frighteningly so, but I have become a monster. I am creating destruction, which is creation in reverse. So I can go through life and as I speak, my words will create goodness. With words I can bring healing to people; I can change other peoples’ lives for good; I can open up paths of blessing for them. On the other hand, I can go through life and every time I open my mouth I will destroy someone. I can leave behind me a whole wake of destruction and sorrow and chaos, all with words.
But there is another strange thing. Not only do I affect others; I affect myself. Did you notice in the passage from James that the tongue is the rudder? The rudder of my life guides my life. Also, the tongue has the power to defile my whole body. So not only do I create for you and those who listen to me, but I also create for myself. My tongue is the rudder of my life. So therefore, as I speak I am speaking into being the next hours of my life. In fact I am speaking into being a whole lifestyle. What I say will guide me continually, infallibly. And what I say will also come back to me, enter into me and become me.
Therefore, if I speak blessing, if I speak out from the purposes of God, then three things are going to happen. First, I will leave a creative blessing with you, and I will change your life somehow. Secondly, that blessing will become the way of my life today, and will be the rudder that will turn me into that course. Thirdly, it will enter back into me. Even when I spoke the blessing I knew that it was true, but now it enters back and becomes truth within me. I become what I say. However, if I open my mouth based on my independent self, the result of that will be that I shall hurt you, crush you, destroy you. I shall turn my own life into a negative path. I shall have turned the rudder into darkness. And that is the frightening thing. Although I may have said what I said because I wanted to hurt you, I was the one who said it. It comes back into me. I become what I said to you. Do you understand that? The words that I speak dominate me.
You may want many things in life and think about many things, and nothing happens. But the moment you speak it out, something dynamic happens. You can sit back and say ‘I wish I could do this, I wish I could do that’, but when you open your mouth and say ‘I shall do that’, something happens. So we are creators of each other’s days, and we are creators of our own tomorrows. Proverbs Chapter 12 Verse 14 says that a man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words. And look at Chapter 13 Verses 2a: ‘From the fruit of a man’s mouth he enjoys good [things].’ Also notice Verse 3a: ‘The one who guards his mouth preserves his life.’ The way that you talk, the words that come out of your mouth, will produce within you a nature that can satisfy or destroy you. It is up to you. Chapter 18 Verse 20a says, ‘With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied.’ You eat your own words. That is why I said that your words come out of you and go back into you. And that verse continues: ‘He will be satisfied with the product of his lips.’
Chapter 18 Verse 21: ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit’. The Hebrew there is very difficult to translate, but the idea is that, whether you like it or not, you had better be satisfied, because there is no way back. You will be satisfied with it. You had better, because you have got to live with it. This is something quite frightening. But you and I are in fact what we have talked ourselves into being. You have created you. If you do not like you, says the proverb, you had better be satisfied, because you have eaten your own words and that is the way you are. Think of yourself rising in the morning, looking out on the day and moaning that ‘this is going to be one of those days’. Well, that is how it is going to be, because you have just spoken it into being. You should leap out of bed and say, ‘Glorious day, God’s here!’ And it will be. The day in itself is quite neutral; but it becomes what you make of it. Show me a griper, who is always complaining and speaking misery, and I will show you someone who is talking themselves into chronic depression. When we meet them sitting in their pool of blackness, we almost feel that we should read them this verse.
The awesome power, creative power, that we have! At this moment I am speaking creative words to you. What a responsibility is on me! I am speaking creative words to you, and as I am speaking them to you they are coming back to me and I am eating them. When you thing about yourself, who are you? You are a spirit who lives in a body, and that spirit manifests itself in words, and the words in manifestation return to dominate the person. So you see, you could describe the wise man of Proverbs as a responsible creator. He is creating with words, sending every word out in the light of God’s wisdom. Therefore he is sending out wisdom and blessing and health.
Consider, again, the fool, the stubborn rebel. Why does Proverbs tell us about him, when the book is written to wise people? Well, it is because sometimes even wise people need to be reminded what a fool looks like. And by looking at the fool, they are held back from doing some foolish things. There is a bit of a fool in everybody, and it does not hurt to be shown what the foolish man looks like. It helps us to see that we still do those foolish things, so that we can stop doing them and become wise. Why does the fool talk as he does? What is foolish talk? Well, it comes out of his independent, self-centred heart, or spirit. Proverbs Chapter 15 Verse 2b says ‘the mouth of fools spouts folly’. It is like a babbling brook: folly, folly, folly. Again, Chapter 18 Verse 13 says, ‘He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.’ Some people like to tell you the answer before you have finished the question. They bubble out with what they call advice for everybody, but in fact it is just chit-chat. Why? Because, you see, the mouth is reflecting the spirit.
The Bible tells us that the more we talk, the more sure we are of coming into sin. Proverbs Chapter 10 Verse 19a says, ‘When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable.’ People who just let everything come rushing out are sooner or later going to start destroying with their words. Now, we tend to dismiss these people. We say that she is a great talker, or that she is a little old gossip, or that he is just in one his moods. We dismiss it; but the Bible gets right to the heart of where the words are coming from and the reason that they are pouring out like a spout. That is why it treats those words as if they were atom bombs. Look at Chapter 11 Verse 9a: ‘With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor.’ With his mouth, not with guns or knives. And Verse 11b: ‘By the mouth of the wicked [a city] is torn down.’ Think of that: words can destroy a city, and they can destroy people. Chapter 12 Verse 18a says that words spoken rashly are like the thrust of a sword. If you open your mouth, a sword comes thrusting out and you leave behind a mortally wounded person. Chapter 15 Verse 4b says that perversion in the tongue crushes the spirit. The word ‘perversion’ there could be very easily translated from the Hebrew as wild words or angry words or complaining words. All those words – words of complaint, words spat out in anger or in wild chatter – are perverted words. When they are spoken they go right into the person who is being addressed, and crush their spirit, destroying them like the thrust of a sword.
Of course, true gossips really believe that the world should hear what they have to say, and that the slander they are passing on should be passed on. And the people with all the empty chattering advice that is not advice really believe that what they are saying is solid gold. Proverbs Chapter 10 Verse 20b says that the heart of the wicked is worth little. One edition of the Bible translates ‘worth little’ from the Hebrew as ‘trash’. The heart of the wicked is trash. The so-called treasure that pours in volumes out of wicked mouths is nothing but empty trash to God.
Chapter 18 Verse 6 says, ‘A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows.’ His mouth needs a good slap right across it. Verse 7: ‘A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.’ Every time a fool opens his mouth, not only does he bring strife but also he destroys himself and puts himself into a snare. He is a prisoner in a dungeon of words. He has spoken into being every brick of the dungeon. It has all come out of his independent self, and every brick is labelled ‘this brick will self-destruct’. Now, the first characteristic of the conversation of fools is the desire to destroy. In actual fact, most of us have a little bit of the fool still hanging around in us.
Now really listen. I have never preached a sermon on gossip, but in looking at the Book of Proverbs it cannot be avoided. And as I studied these pages again, something frightened me. At the heart of the fool, the man independent of God, is a desire to destroy his fellow man with that lethal weapon of words. Every time you feel the desire to gossip, to slander, to put someone down, just remind yourself that you are setting out to destroy that person. You are doing so with something more lethal than weapons. You are using creative power to destroy your fellow man. Proverbs Chapter 10 Verse 18b says, ‘He who speaks slander is a fool.’ And Chapter 16 Verse 27 describes the fool as a ‘worthless man’. Verses 27 and 28: ‘A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are scorching fire. A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.’
When you are enquiring of another person, ask yourself why you wish to know that information. When you know that someone has a tit-bit of news, ask yourself if you really need to know that news. Will you really be able to love that person better because of what you are going to be told? Will it really enable you and the teller of the news to edify the other person concerned? Why do you wish to hear it? Is it in order to reinforce your armoury so that you in turn can join the ranks of those who are destroying people? There are many times when you would be far wiser to put the telephone down and not talk, because you are hearing things that are not only going to destroy you but in your mouth are going to destroy others. Will if really help to pass on what you know?
Chapter 18 Verse 8 says, ‘The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.’ The man who wrote this proverb was very wise. I tell you that when it comes to gossip we all love to wag our tongues. To get in on one of those acts where someone is being murdered with words! The temptation to listen! The temptation to become involved! I suppose that when we are gossiping and passing on whispered, classified, information, we may think that we are doing no harm. But, says this proverb, our words are going to the depths of our bodies. They are turning us into destroyers, and we ourselves are becoming destroyed.
Chapter 26 Verses 20 and 21: ‘For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.’ Do you see what the proverb is saying? If you wish to keep the fire going, put logs on it. Take the logs away and the fire goes out. Too often when we visit people we carry a few logs under the arm to make sure that the fire does not go out during our visit. We always bring a little tit-bit to get the conversation going. We even take logs to prayer meetings. We call the logs ‘prayer requests’. We say, ‘I don’t like to share this, but I feel I should. Pray for him, because this is what I heard. Mind you, I don’t know it for certain, I only heard it. Let’s pray for him.’ The truth is that that is not a prayer meeting. It is a contention meeting, where hideous bombs are made. And from that prayer meeting ten gossiping people will go to drop those bombs elsewhere.
The whole of the Book of Proverbs is written with a view of the first five books of the Bible. At that time in history, the Law of Moses was the only revelation of God’s covenant. That was all that the people knew of the purposes of God. (We, of course, know the whole purpose of God, because we have seen it focused in Jesus.) And so when Proverbs speaks of wisdom, it is referring back to what the readers knew. There are many echoes back to Deuteronomy. We can apply Deuteronomy Chapter 13 Verse 14 to the gossip. We could read this verse as ‘Before you dare open your mouth about anything, you shall investigate and search out and enquire thoroughly if it is true. Then, and only then, shall you open your mouth’. You should never open your mouth until you know that you know that you know. Never just talk! You always create. Before you pass on something that you have heard, even if you veil it with a prayer request, you should first of all investigate it. Search out the truth and enquire thoroughly. And then love the person and be careful what you say. Remember that every word you issue is creative.
Now, gossip is not the only instrument of fools. That is the most common one in Proverbs. But brother to gossip is anger and all the upset that goes with it. Contention is sometimes brought about through gossip, and at other times through anger. The two are brother and sister. Proverbs has an interesting way of talking about anger. It talks about it as the spilling over of the spirit. If I were to spill a cup of water, it would be totally out of control. While the water is in the cup it is under control. But once it has been spilled, then I cannot gather it up. It is out. That is where we get the idea of a loss of temper. Really, you have lost your spirit and not your temper. Your spirit has spilled out and you are no longer under control. Your emotions have assumed control.
You see this instrument of anger in Proverbs Chapter 12 Verse 16a: ‘A fool’s vexation is known at once.’ When I feel angry, I immediately let you know. Or to put it the other way round, Chapter 14 Verse 17a says that a quick-tempered man acts foolishly. Again, Chapter 14 Verse 29 says, ‘He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly’. And Verse 30b says that ‘passion is rottenness to the bones’. Notice that it says ‘slow to anger’. We do not have time to develop the subject of anger, but the Bible never condemns anger. Psalm 4 Verse 4 says, ‘Tremble [or be angry], and do not sin.’ I wish that a lot more people would be a bit more angry about sin, and angry about what Satan has done in the world. Jesus was angry on more than one occasion, but it was a controlled anger. When Proverbs speaks of anger or quick temper it is speaking about lack of control. Anger is an emotion that can be let loose in the most destructive of words, sent out with force and power.
Proverbs Chapter 15 Verse 18a says, ‘A hot-tempered man stirs up strife.’ And now notice Chapter 17 Verse 14: ‘The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out’. If you go to the wall of a dam and put a hole in it, the water will start to come out. It will gather speed, and gradually the whole dam will begin to give way. Then all the water rushes out. So when anger is rising inside you, Proverbs says, ‘Now hold it. Don’t stand there being angry with yourself that you are getting angry. That only makes it worse. And certainly don’t let it start to come out, because once it starts coming out it will quickly get out of control.’ The wise man might get angry, but the wise man controls himself and holds his anger in. Once you have understood what words are, you will appreciate that some things are better not said. The moment that you have spoken, your words have become a reality. This is true of all emotions: you can feel many things, but once you let them past your lips they are lot more dangerous. You have sent them to do something. Chapter 29 Verse 20 says, ‘Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.’ And Verse 22b: ‘A hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.’
Another trait of the fool is that he is full of fantasy. On the other side of this tape we mentioned something of that flitting mind. I gave you that Scripture that says, ‘Wisdom is always in the presence of a man of understanding, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.’ All the fool has are the ideas of his own mind. You always hear him saying things like ‘one day I’m going to do this’; ‘one day I’m going to change’; ‘one day we’ll go there’; ‘if only I could…’; ‘wouldn’t it be nice if…’. And who has not sat in their barn and sung ‘if I were a rich man’? All that is fantasy, and it does not even exist. A wise man controls his fantasies and it shows on his tongue.
I would say from a reading of Proverbs that the wise man never does say ‘I wish’. The wise man deals with what is, not with what is not. All the ideas of a wise man have been carefully sifted before being spoken. Usually when a wise man shares an idea, it is a creative word that is already on its way to being accomplished. When a fool opens his mouth, he has just thought of an idea and he shares it with the world without any thought. And of course nothing ever comes of his words. They just explode into silly nothings that create chaos.
I find that some Christians do a lot of fantasizing. They are always thinking of what God’s plans for the future may be. They forget that God’s plan is being worked out at that moment. Whatever His plans for the future may be is none of your business. Otherwise He would have told you. So get on and be a wise man. Be with God now, this moment. You do not know what tomorrow may bring. While you are dreaming of tomorrow, you are missing the present. The wise man does not fantasize about tomorrow. If there is something to be done tomorrow, he will think it through in the light of God’s wisdom. And when he speaks it out, it will not be a sigh, a wish, a ‘maybe’. It will be a definite ‘that is it’, and it will be a creative word.
Chapter 18 Verse 4 describes the wise man: ‘The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.’ The fool is like a shallow puddle, but the wise man is a deep man full of profound thoughts, and there is a bubbling brook of wisdom within him. From that wisdom he draws and decides his words. And so a wise man is known more for his silences than for his discourses. He will not surrender his lips to the riot of his independent self. He knows the destructive powers that he is capable of, and therefore he watches what he says. Chapter 17 Verse 27 says, ‘He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.’ And Verse 28a adds, ‘Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise.’ Chapter 21 verse 23 says, ‘He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.’ The word ‘trouble’ is better translated from the Hebrew as ‘peril’ or ‘disaster’.
At the heart of the wise man is restraint. We saw it when we talked about anger, and we saw it when we talked about gossip. The wise man knows that his words will be creative, so he learns to draw back and in the light of wisdom decide what he can say. He recognizes that every time his mind just spills out, there is going to be transgression. He recognizes that his mind can easily be dominated by a destructive power, and that he could speak words that he will regret. So he learns restraint. He practises God’s wisdom. Is what he is saying in line with God’s revealed purpose? Is he speaking in the light of eternal love, and in the truth and the wisdom that God has shown him? Chapter 16 Verse 32 says ‘He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit [better] than he who captures a city.’ In other words, the mightiest person you know is the one who can keep a control over what he says. Chapter 10 Verse 19b: ‘He who restrains his lips is wise’
So what do you do instead of letting it out? You let it up — you give it to God. Notice that David always shared with God how he felt, and then he was in a position to handle life. If I share my mind with you I am probably looking for self-pity. If I share it with the person who is hurting me, I try and destroy them with my words. If I keep it inside myself I get all churned up and probably have ulcers. There is only one Person whom you can safely share it with, and you can tell Him just how you feel. I advise you to write your psalms to God and in your psalms tell Him how you feel. And leave your mind with Him.
We are all liable to pick up the dainty morsels of gossip, and the wise man is no different except that he knows it. The simple succinct command of Chapter 20 Verse 19 is that we are not to associate with gossips. Those seem hard words. But if you have a friend who is a gossip, and if you wish be a wise person, you will drop that friendship or demand that they change. Chapter 22 Verse 24: ‘Do not associate with a man given to anger, or go with a hot-tempered man, lest you learn his ways and find a snare for yourself.’ If you have a friend who has no control over their tongue, then, says Proverbs, you had better break the friendship. The more you are with them, the more you will be like them.
I told you at the start of our study that we would not have any fantastic revelations. Proverbs assumes that we have had the revelations. Now we are told how to walk in them. When the wise man speaks, he speaks words of creative blessing. Chapter 11 Verse 11a says, ‘By the blessing of the upright a city is [built up].’ I call upon you to monitor your words. But more than that, I call upon you to do so in God’s light. That way, you will have something worth saying. And you will be known as a wise person by the way you talk.