I have a daily reading plan that I have been following for three months now. It is a fairly simply plan that enables me to read through the Psalms & Proverbs in their entirety every month. It goes like this: 5 Psalms per day and 1 chapter of Proverbs per day. This month I also added in the book of the Revelation. It is fun to keep up with this plan and even more fun to discover each day what particular word the Lord has for me. Some days it is a stinging rebuke of my childish ways; other days it is a word of profound comfort and grace. Some days it is seemingly irrelevant, other days it's as if the ancient writer looked into the future and could tell you how many hairs are on my scalp.
Words are important. Talking is important. The two are somehow related, but they can be mutually exclusive. I don't need to talk to make use of words and I don't need to use words to talk.
The Proverbs…the Proverbs. It amazes me that the writer, whoever that was, had such insight into the power of words and the effects that words have on people. The past couple of days I have been reading chapters 10-15 and here's what I found: 33 proverbs, even by a conservative count, speak directly to the idea of talking, the tongue, speaking, or otherwise. For example:
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. (15:4)
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (15:1)
The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them (12:6)
With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape (11:9)
And so it goes. The author had other things to say too and it is probably helpful and constructive to read through these a lot and perhaps even commit them to memory.
I like words. I always have liked words. I like learning new words. I enjoy when I am able to incorporate a new word into my vocabulary. Nevertheless, these Proverbs about speaking teach me something quite different about words and talking. They teach me, frankly, that most of the time it is prudent and much to be preferred to be quiet and listen. To make short use of words. To give careful thought to the words we use: The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves, but a fool's heart blurts out folly (12:23).
Or, "Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues" (10:19). Thus it is always important to carefully choose our words, to speak softly, to listen closely, to use words carefully, to nod often, and to respond prudently.
There are probably times in life when I have not been so wise about words, but I'm learning. It goes well with something I heard a long time ago that for this reason we have two ears and one mouth.