The Power of the Tongue


"Death & life are in the power of the tongue" (Pro.18:21)


1. The power of positive speech:

A. Loving, wholesome speech has a great effect:

                2Chr.10:7                If thou be kind unto this people...& speak good words to them, they will be thy servants forever

                Pro.15:1a                A soft answer turneth away wrath

                Pro.15:23                A word spoken in due season, how good is it

                Pro.25:15                By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, & a soft tongue breaketh the bone

B. Wise speech is health & life:

                Pro.10:11a              The mouth of the righteous man is a well of life

                Pro.12:18b              The tongue of the wise is health

                Pro.15:4a                A wholesome tongue is a tree of life

                Pro.16:24                Pleasant words are...sweet to the soul, & health

C. Other points on wholesome speech:

                Pro.8:6    The opening of my lips shall be right things

                Pro.14:3b                The lips of the wise shall preserve them

                Pro.31:26b              In her tongue is the law of kindness

                Eccl.10:12a             The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious

                Jam.3:2   If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect (complete, mature) man

                (See also Psa.37:30; Pro.10:31; 15:7; 24:26; Mal.2:6,7.)

D. Speaking the right things at the right time:

                Pro.10:32a              The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable

                Pro.25:11                A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver

                Eccl.8:5b                A wise man's heart discerneth both time & judgment

E. Speaking encouraging words to strengthen others:

                Gen.50:21b             And he comforted them, & spake kindly unto them

                Deut.3:28a             Encourage him, & strengthen him

                Job 4:4    Thy words have upholden him that was falling, & thou hast strengthened the feeble knees

                Job 16:5  I would strengthen you with my mouth

                Isa.35:3,4                Strengthen the weak hands...say to them, Be strong

                Isa.50:4   Speak a word in season to him that is weary

F. Speaking & talking about the Lord's Word:

                Deut.6:6,7              Thou shalt talk of (the Word) when thou sittest...when thou walkest...when thou liest down...& risest up

                Psa.119:172            My tongue shall talk of Thy Word

                Jn.6:63    The Words I speak unto you, they are spirit, &

                Eph.5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms & hymns &...songs

                1Pet.4:11                If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God

G. Sharing testimonies about the great things God has done:

                Psa.9:11  Sing praises...declare among the people His doings

                Psa.35:28                My tongue shall talk of Thy righteousness & of Thy praise all the day long

                Psa.66:16                I will declare what He hath done for my soul

                Psa.145:1-7,           I will speak of...Thy majesty, & of Thy wondrous works

                10,12,21...make known to men His mighty acts

                Acts 12:17             He...declared unto them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison

                (See also Psa.37:30; 40:9,10; 71:17; Isa.12:4.)

H. Have a sense of humour & be able to laugh:

                Pro.17:22                A merry heart doeth good like a medicine (See also Pro.15:13,15)

                Psa.126:2                Then was our mouth filled with laughter (See Job 8:21)

                (See also Gen.21:6; Eccl.3:4; 10:19a.)


2. Silence & restrained speech:

                Eccl.3:7   [There is] a time to keep silence, & a time to speak

A. The dangers of speaking too much:

                Pro.10:19a              In the multitude of words there wanteth (lacks) not sin

                Pro.14:23                In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury (poverty)

B. The wisdom of being slow to speak:

                Jam.1:19 Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak

                Pro.18:13                He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly & shame unto him

                Eccl.5:2,6                Be not rash (hasty) with thy mouth...wherefore should God be angry...& destroy the work of thine hands?

                Jn.8:1-9   [Example of Jesus avoiding being rushed into answering]

C. It is usually wise to speak little:

                Pro.17:27                He that hath knowledge spareth his words

                Eccl.5:3b                A fool's voice is known by multitude of words

                (See also Mat.5:37)

D. It is often wise not to speak at all:

                Job 13:5  O that ye would altogether hold your peace. And it should be your wisdom

                Pro.10:19b              He that refraineth his lips is wise

                Pro.11:12b              A man of understanding holdeth his peace

                Pro.17:28                Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: & he that shutteth lips is...a man of understanding

                Pro.21:23                Who keepeth...his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles

E. Watch your words:

                Psa.39:1b               To...sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me

                Psa.141:3                Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; lips

                Pro.13:3a                He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life

                Mat.12:36               Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment

F. Keeping secrets:

                Pro.11:13                A talebearer (gossip) revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter

                Pro.25:9  Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; & discover (disclose) not a secret to another

                Mic.7:5   Keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom (See also Judg.14:15-17; 16:4-6; 15-21.)

                Mat.9:30 Jesus straitly charged them...See that no man know it

                Mat.12:14-16         (Jesus) charged them they should not make Him known

                Mk.1:43-45             See thou say nothing to any man (See also Mat.8:4a)

                Mk.9:9,10               (Jesus) charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen (See also Mat.17:9; Lk.9:36.)

                Lk.8:56    He charged them that they should tell no man what was done (See also Mk.5:43)

                Lk.9:20,21               He...commanded them to tell no man that thing (See also Mat.16:20)

                Acts 23:22             Tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me

                (See also Josh.2:14,20)

G. Learning how to be quiet:

                Job 6:24a                Teach me, & I will hold my tongue

                1Thes.4:11             Study to be quiet, & to do [mind] your own business

H. The foolish simply cannot keep their mouth shut:

                Pro.15:2b                The mouth of fools poureth forth foolishness

                Pro.20:3 cease...but every fool will be meddling

                Pro.29:11a              A fool uttereth all his mind


3. The damage an uncontrolled tongue will do:

A. An uncontrolled tongue will defile you & others:

                Mat.15:11               That which cometh out of the mouth...defileth a man

                Mat.15:18               Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; & they defile a man

                Jam.3:6   The tongue is...a world of defileth the whole body

B. A talebearing (gossiping) tongue is a fire:

                Jam.3:5,6                The tongue is a setteth on fire...& is set on fire of hell

                Pro.16:27                Ungodly his lips there is as a burning fire

C. A slanderous, wicked tongue is deadly poison:

                Jam.3:8   The of deadly poison

                Psa.140:3                Adders' poison is under their lips

                Eccl.10:11               The serpent will bite without enchantment; & a babbler is no better

                Rom.3:13b              The poison of asps is under their lips

D. A vainbabbling tongue destroys like cancer:

                2Tim.2:16,17          Profane & vain babblings...their word will eat as doth a canker (cancer)

E. A sharp, malicious tongue can inflict deep wounds:

                Pro.12:18a              There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword

                Pro.25:18                Man that beareth false a maul, & a sword

                Pro.26:22                The words of a talebearer are as wounds, & they go down into the innermost parts (deep)

F. A malicious tongue destroys & kills:

                Pro.11:9a                An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour

                Pro.18:21                Death & life are in the power of the tongue

                Pro.26:28                A flattering mouth worketh ruin

G. It destroys love & friendship:

                Pro.16:28b              A whisperer (gossiper) separateth chief friends

                Acts 14:2               Made their minds evil affected against the brethren


4. Foolish & evil speech:

A. Evil speech comes from an evil heart:

                Pro.15:2b                The mouth of fools poureth out foolishness

                Pro.15:28b              The mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things

                Mat.12:35b            An evil man out of (heart) bringeth forth evil things

B. Evil, foolish speech corrupts & stinks:

                Eccl.10:1 Dead flies...send forth a doth a little folly in him that is in reputation for wisdom

                1Cor.15:33              Evil communications corrupt good manners


C. The perverse (polluted) & froward (defiant) tongue:

                Pro.8:13  The froward (defiant, contrary) mouth do I hate

                Pro.15:4  Perverseness [in a tongue] is a breach in the spirit

                Pro.26:18,19           As a madman who casteth firebrands & death, so is the man that deceiveth...& saith, Am not I (joking)?

D. Foolishness & vain talk leads to mischief & ungodliness:

                Pro.14:7  Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge

                Pro.15:14b              The mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness

                Eccl.10:13               The beginning of (his) foolishness: & the end of his talk is mischievous madness

                2Tim.2:16               Shun profane & vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness

E. An uncontrolled tongue brings disaster:

                Psa.109:17-20        As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him

                Pro.10:14b              The mouth of the foolish is near destruction

                Pro.10:10b              A prating (idly chattering) fool shall fall

                Pro.12:13a              The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips

                Pro.13:3b                He that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction

                Pro.17:20                He that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief

                Pro.18:7  A fool's mouth...& his lips are the snare of his soul

                Eccl.10:12b            The lips of a fool will swallow up himself


5. Controlling your tongue:

A. Refrain from corrupt communication:

                Pro.4:24  Put away from thee a froward mouth, & perverse lips

                Eph.4:29a               Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth

                Eph.5:4   Neither filthiness (obscenity), nor foolish talking, nor jesting, but rather giving of thanks

                Col.3:8    Put...filthy communication out of your mouth

                1Tim.6:20a             Avoiding profane & vain babblings

B. Speak edifying things, not corrupt:

                Eph.4:29 No corrupt communication....but that which is...edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers

                Col.4:6    Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt

                Tit.2:8     Sound speech, that cannot be condemned

                Pro.8:8,9 All the words of My mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them

                (See also Rom.15:2)

C. You can't control your own tongue by yourself:

                Jam.3:8   The tongue can no man tame

D. Only God can, so yield to Him:

                Psa.45:1b               My tongue is the pen of a ready writer [the Lord]

                Pro.16:1  The preparations of the heart of man, & the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord

                Isa.50:4   The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I...know how to speak [an encouraging] word

                Lk.12:12  The Holy Ghost shall teach you...what ye ought to say

                1Pet.4:11a              If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God

E. Read & obey God's Word, & let it change you:

                Psa.119:9                (How) shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking Thy Word

                Jn.15:3    Now ye are clean through the Word

                Eph.5:26 That He might sanctify & cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word

                1Pet.1:22a              Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth

                (See also Pro.6:20-23; Heb.10:22.)


6. Gossiping, backbiting & slander:

A. The Lord forbids you to gossip:

                Lev.19:16               Thou shalt not go up & down as a talebearer (gossip or slanderer) among thy people: I am the Lord

                Exo.23:1a                Thou shalt not raise a false report

                Eph.4:31 Let all...evil speaking, be put away...with all malice

                Tit.3:2a   Speak evil of no man

                Jam.4:11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren

                1Pet.2:1  (Lay) aside all malice, & guile...& all evil speakings

B. Warning against backbiting:

                Pro.25:9  Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; & [tell] not a secret to another

                2Cor.12:20              I fear...I shall not find you such as I would...lest there be ...backbitings, whisperings

C. Gossiping shows a lack of true faith & love:

                Pro.10:18                He that uttereth a slander, is a fool

                1Tim.5:11-13          When they have begun to wax wanton against Christ ...they learn to be...tattlers & busybodies

                Jam.1:26 If any man seem to be religious, & bridleth not his tongue...this man's religion is vain

D. Gossiping is born of hatred:

                Psa.38:12                They that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, & imagine deceits

                Psa.41:7  All that hate me whisper together against me

E. Gossiping is of the devil:

                1Tim.3:11               So must their wives be grave, not slanderers [literally: "diabolos", meaning false accuser, devil]

                Rev.12:10               [The devil,] the accuser of our brethren


7. The punishment for gossiping:

A. Scriptural response to backbiters & talebearers:

                Tit.1:10,11              There are many unruly & vain talkers...whose mouths must be stopped

                Psa.32:9  [They] have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit & bridle

                Pro.25:23                Angry countenance (driveth away) a backbiting tongue

B. Part company with them if they don't change:

                Psa.101:5                [King David said:] Whoso (privately) slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off

                Psa.101:7                He that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight

                Pro.20:19                He that goeth about as a talebearer (gossip) revealeth secrets: therefore [have nothing to do] with him

                Pro.22:10                Cast out a scorner, & contention shall go out

                Pro.26:20                Where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth

C. The Lord will judge them:

                Mat.12:36,37          Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment


8. How to avoid criticising & gossiping about others:

A. Think about their virtues:

                Phi.4:8    Whatsoever things are...pure...lovely...if there be any virtue...think on these things

                (See also Phi.1:3)

B. Remember the blessings for not backbiting:

                Psa.15:1,3               Who shall abide [before God]? He that backbiteth not ...nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour

                1Pet.3:10                He that will...see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, & his lips (from) guile

                Rev.14:5 In their mouth guile: they are before the throne

C. Make an effort to not speak evil:

                Psa.17:3b               I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress

                Psa.39:1a                I will take heed...that I sin not with my tongue

                Pro.30:32                If thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth [before you speak what you were thinking]


D. Don't even think evil:

                Psa.19:14                Let the words of my mouth, & the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight

                Eccl.10:20               Curse not the king, no not in thy thought

                Mk.7:21  For out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts

                2Cor.10:5                Bringing...every thought to the obedience of Christ

E. You can't speak good if your heart is full of evil:

                Mat.12:34               How can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh

F. Beware of hypocritical flattery:

                Psa.12:2  They speak vanity...with flattering lips & double heart

                Psa.28:3  Wicked...speak peace, but mischief is in their hearts

                Psa.55:21                The words of his mouth were smoother than...oil, yet were they drawn swords

                Psa.62:4  They bless with their mouth, but curse inwardly

                Pro.26:23                Burning (fervently agreeing) lips (with) a wicked heart are like (earthenware) covered with silver

                Pro.26:25,26           When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are ...abominations in his heart

                Ezk.33:31b              With their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness


9. Warning against judging others:

                Mat.7:1   Judge not, that ye be not judged

                Mat.7:2   With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged

                Mat.7:3-5               Why beholdest the thy brother's eye, but considerest not beam that is in thine own eye?

                Jn.7:24    Judge not according to appearance...but righteous

                Rom.2:1,2               Thou art inexcusable...wherein thou judgest another...for thou that judgest doest the same things

                Rom.2:3  Thinkest thou...that judgest...& doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

                Rom.14:13a            Let us not therefore judge one another any more


10. What to do when others speak evil of you:

A. Ignore it if you can; don't be offended:

                Eccl.7:21,22            Take no heed unto all words spoken...thine own heart knoweth thou thyself likewise hast cursed others

                Psa.119:165            Great peace have they which love Thy (Word): & nothing shall offend them

B. Don't speak evil of them in return:

                1Pet.2:21-23           Follow (Christ's) steps...Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again (See also Isa.53:7,9 )

                1Pet.3:9  Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing

C. Let your good works disprove their lies:

                Tit.2:7,8  Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is...contrary...(have) no evil thing to say of you

                1Pet.2:12                Whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, glorify God

                1Pet.2:15                With well doing...put to silence...foolish men

                1Pet.3:16                Having a good (way of life); that, whereas they speak evil of you...they may be ashamed

D. Jesus remained silent before His accusers:

                Isa.53:7   He was oppressed...yet He opened not His mouth

                Mat.27:14               (Jesus) answered him (Pilate) to never a word

                Lk.23:9    He (Herod) questioned Him (Jesus) in many words; but He answered him nothing

                Lk.22:67,68             [Jesus knew that answering His enemies was pointless]

E. But there are times to speak out & give answer:

                Acts 21:40             [Paul gave his defense to the mob in Jerusalem]

                Acts 24:10             [Paul defended himself from his accusers before Felix]

                Acts 26:1               [Paul's self-defense before Governor Festus & Agrippa]

                1Pet.3:15                Be ready always to give an answer to every man that [sincerely] asketh you a reason

                (See also Mat.10:18-20)


11. Arguments & contentions:

A. Avoid getting drawn into arguments:

                Pro.17:14                Leave off contention, before it be meddled with

                Pro.26:4  Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him

                Pro.29:11b              A wise man keepeth [his comments] in till afterwards

                Phi.2:3    Let nothing be done through strife

                2Tim.2:24               The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be patient

                1Pet.3:9  Not rendering evil (insult) for (insult), or railing (reviling) for (reviling): but contrariwise blessing

                (See also 2Ki.18:36)

B. Listen carefully & think about what you say:

                Pro.15:28                The heart of the righteous studieth to answer

                Pro.18:13                He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly & shame unto him

                Jam.1:19 Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath

C. Don't get provoked & answer rashly:

                Pro.15:18b              He that is slow to anger appeaseth strife

                Pro.16:32                He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty

                Pro.25:8  Go not forth hastily to strive

                Pro.29:20                Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? There is more hope of a fool than of him

                Eccl.5:2   Be not rash with thy mouth...(nor) hasty to utter any thing...let thy words be few

D. Speak calmly:

                Pro.15:1a                A soft answer turneth away wrath

                Pro.22:11                For the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend

E. What causes arguments & contention:

                Pro.10:12a              Hatred stirreth up strifes

                Pro.13:10                Only by pride cometh contention

                Pro.15:1b                Grievous words stir up anger

                Pro.15:18a              A wrathful man stirreth up strife

                Pro.18:6  A fool's lips enter into contention

                Pro.26:21                As wood to fire; so a contentious man (kindles) strife

                Pro.28:25a              He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife

                Pro.29:22                An angry man stirreth up strife

                Acts 13:45             They were filled with envy, & spake against those things ...contradicting & blaspheming

                1Tim.6:4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions &...words, whereof cometh...strife

                Jam.4:1   Wars & fightings...come..of your lusts

                (See also Pro.26:17)

F. The futility of arguing:

                Job 6:25  How forcible are right words! But what doth your arguing reprove?

                Pro.9:7,8 He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself...shame ...reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee

                Pro.23:9  Speak not in the ears of a fool: he will despise wisdom

                Pro.29:9  If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he (the foolish man) rage or laugh, there is no rest

G. Ending an argument:

                Pro.17:9  He that covereth (lets pass) a transgression seeketh love

                Pro.20:3a                It is an honour for a man to cease from strife

                Pro.22:10                Cast out the scorner, & contention shall...cease

                Col.3:13  Forbearing (putting up with) one another, & forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any

                (See also Gen.50:20,21)

H. Warning to those who "love a good argument":

                Pro.17:19                He loveth transgression that loveth strife

                1Cor.3:3  Whereas there is among you...strife....are ye not carnal, & walk as [carnal, worldly] men?

                Jam.3:14,15            If ye have bitter...strife in your hearts, glory not...this wisdom is devilish

I. The bad fruit of arguments:

                Psa.106:33              They provoked his (Moses') spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with this lips

                Pro.18:19                A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city...contentions are like bars of a castle

                Acts 15:39             The contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other

                Gal.5:15  If ye bite & devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another

                Jam.3:16 Where...strife is, there is confusion & every evil work

J. When it is right to contend:

                Pro.26:5  Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit

                Pro.28:4  Such as keep the law contend with (the wicked)

                Pro.28:23                He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth

                Acts 15:1,2            "Except ye be circumcised, ye cannot be saved." Paul ...had no small dissension & disputation with them

                Jude 3b  Ye should earnestly contend for the faith

K. Humbly explain to, correct & instruct the receptive:

                Gal.6:1    Restore such an one in the spirit of meekness

                2Tim.2:25               In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves (See also Jam.5:20 )

                1Pet.3:15                Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason...with meekness


12. Lying, deceit & bearing false witness:

A. God's Word warns us not to lie:

                Lev.19:11               Neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another

                Pro.24:28                Be not a witness against thy neighbour without cause; & deceive not with thy lips

                Eph.4:25 Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour

                Col.3:9    Lie not to one another, seeing ye have put off the old man with his deeds


B. What God thinks about lying:

                Pro.12:22a              Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord

C. God's judgment on wicked liars:

                Psa.63:11b             The mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped

                Pro.19:5  A false witness shall not be unpunished, & he that speaketh lies shall not escape

                Pro.19:9  He that speaketh lies shall perish

                Acts 5:1-10            [Ananias & Sapphira lied to the Holy Ghost & died]

                (See also Psa.31:18; 35:11-20; Pro.12:19.)


Special chapter on the tongue: James 3



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