Choosing Words Wisely - Proverbs

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Intro

Good morning GracePointe. We are continuing our series in Proverbs titled “A well ordered life in a disordered world”.

Disorder

Recently, I had an experience that went south quickly when it comes to order. I am not sure when my wife and I succumbed to the allure of McDonalds…probably around the time my kids could start eating and recognized the golden arches. But now, its a goto. Not proud of it…just saying it is our reality.
Just last week after a great but hot and long day with carefree, I got home and my wife Jen gave me the look that says....”do it. Go get mcDonalds. and my look back is…absolutely. “ So I head there and put my order in. I get to the first window, pay for the meals, then get to the second window where a food service worker opens the window and asks me what my order was. I was caught off guard because usually…they have this down. But I told him my order. He responded with “ok man. Kitchen is being slow today.” and then he shut the window. 5 min goes by. In the world of Mickey D’s, this is a lifetime. Window opens again and the same person asks me if I have an online order. I smiled and said nope. Still waiting on my order number and what was in it. He goes “ah man sorry i am new.” I said no problem. I asked him if he wanted me to move ahead. He shrugged and said if you want. I move ahead in the line. Now I am in the “your food is taking too long” spot of the drive through.
Friends, 15 min go by. We are going for a record in slowness when it comes to fast food. I flip around, go back through the drive through.....tell the guy at the ordering spot my order. He said oh yeah we have it. I go past the payment window....I don’t even stop. Don’t want to complicate things. I get to the window…the same worker opens the window ands asks if I am waiting on a mcflurry. I smile…and say nope just waiting on my order number and the meals. He goes aww man you didn’t get your food?” I smile and say nope. Suddenly like a miracle, my food appears behind him with another worker. The bag with the fries from heaven. As another worker brings my food up, the young man I have been talking to turns and knocks my back over on the ground. He then looks at me and says “dude..i just knocked your food to the ground” I smiled and said “yep…we all have days we wish we could do over am I right?
I eventually got my food but i was a strange and frankly a situation that highlights the disorder that we often feel at times in our lives. I just want my food…but either foolish decisions that I make or someone else makes…or both can contribute to me driving around circles in a Mcdonalds drive through. Have you felt that disordering?

Answer to Disorder

In proverbs we have been identifying the answer to disorder is wisdom. Proverbs 1:7
Proverbs 1:7 NIV
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
This idea that the joyful life we have to the full, the thriving life is sought by way of posturing ourselves to humble ourselves before the Lord and seek his wisdom. Not an earthly wisdom but a wisdom that comes from above. James 3:16-17 says it best.
James 3:16–17 NIV
16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
We want to seek out that wisdom. We want to live our lives in such a way that when we find ourselves circling the drive thru of life wondering where our fries are, wondering if we might run out of gas in the drive thru line.....we can pursue wisdom from above and seek the Lord in all things. That can be in our finances, that can be in our parenting, and in the way we work.
But we all have a problem. We all have a diagnosed issue that gets in the way of pursuing what God has for us. This issue is deadly. The issue is our words. Our words get in the way right?

Mosquitos

It reminds me of an article I read recently where it asked “What is the deadliest creature on the earth?” Right now…think about what that might be. I know when I think about it....something with claws…something with fangs.....large. But the answer.....mosquitos. Those annoying little guys. The article went on to say that globally, 50% of the population is at risk of mosquito born diseases. There are 16,000 mosquitos for each person. That is astonishing.....each mosquito can carry bad things depending on the area of the world....yellow fever and horrible virus’. Deadly to say the least. Many of us would like to figure out a way to eradicate mosquitos from the face of the earth! Now of course, with a little more time and thought, we recognize that mosquitos…while annoying…are actually an essential part of the ecosystem. They provide food for many different species of animals and pollinate different types of plants. Capable of life and death.

GOD’S WORDS

When I read that about mosquitos, I was immediately caught by how a small thing can be so deadly. And my mind went to how the words that I use can be both equally life giving or deadly. In fact, I did some digging and several studies point to a person speaking about 16000 words on average a day. I thought ....what if I treated those words like mosquitos. They have the potential to be incredibly annoying and even deadly. But they can also bring life and build others up.
The idea of words in scripture is quite immense. Right in Genesis 1, we see it outlined that God spoke the universe into existence. Right off, we are gathering intel on who God is based on what he says and does. In fact, this theological principle is a critical moment. John 1 points to this. Creation begins with God speaking, and then a new creation begins when this speaking “Word” of God becomes a human being in the flesh, the living and active person of Jesus. As John says, “In him was life, and that life was the light of humanity” (John 1:4)
God is our king. God is our creator. God uses words to create life, save life, and deliver life to the everlasting. That is the God we follow and serve.

OUR WORDS

Contrast that with you and I. Let’s be honest together. Are we using our words to give life? In humility, we all recognize that we fail at this. That our 16000 words resemble the annoying and at times deadly form of mosquitos.
Our focus today is going to be on Proverbs 10:18-21 as we look at our words. Proverbs 10:18-21
Proverbs 10:18–21 NIV
18 Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips and spreads slander is a fool. 19 Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. 20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. 21 The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.
Words express the mind, will, and character of a person. Words reveal identity. We can observe much about a person based on what we see, but we can’t begin to know them personally until they speak to us. As we look at this section of proverbs I would offer that we use our words to express the mind, will and character of a follower of Jesus. Today I am gonna outline 3 ways we do this.

1. In the kingdom, followers of Christ Speak out of Love to Others

In verse 18, we see that whoever conceals hatred with lying lips is a fool. The Hebrew word for “conceal” points to a sense of covering one’s true feelings about one another. They understand their true feelings of dislike and malice but cover it up.
Not only that but they choose slander. Here, the Hebrew word rendered slander (dibbah) is referring to one who uses harmful and abusive words that are falsely spoken in order to damage the reputation of another so others will think less of this hated one. The foolishness of the fool (Heb. kesil), who has the trait of acting stupidly or rashly because he is devoid of wisdom or understanding.
Those who do this are fools. Why are they fools?
Because we are to love others as ourselves. Jesus tells us to love others as ourselves in Matthew 22 and Matt 7. To “love your neighbour as yourself” means to remember that you and they are, essentially, the same—not identical, but substantially the same. They, other people, have, similar needs and desires, hopes and fears, limitations. When you hate others, when that hate inevitably breeds actions of malice and slander…you are establishing a pattern of how you treat yourself as well. As a follower of Christ, we are to love and pray for people. We are to speak in love. We are put the hatred and malice and actions of slander at the foot of the cross....ask God to continuously remove it from our hearts.
When it comes to speaking love, we are first to remind ourselves that we are to love. In Matthew 12:34, Jesus reminds us that what we are saying is a product of what is in our heart.
Matthew 12:34 NIV
34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
When you find yourself with feelings of animosity, and harm towards others....ask the hard questions. What is in your heart? Are you afraid? Are you fearful of something? Is it pride? Is it vanity. These are evil things that produce evil speech. Ask God to remove it and with determined discipline, do the next right thing. All the while remembering, hating and concealing hatred, slandering and lying....it hurts your neighbor all the while hurting yourself as well.
Another aspect of speaking love to one another, is that our methods reflect love. There is a danger to live in the extremes of this. I only say nice things…or I like to torture people in love with my words.
Pastor Michael and Pastor Paul have reflected on this. Truth without love is brutality. Love without Truth is sentimentality. Brutality and Sentimentality are lacking. They don’t add up to a live that is thriving. We should balance Truth and Love remembering that we are love to our neighbor. In fact, another proverb speaks on this. Proverbs 3:3-4
Proverbs 3:3–4 NIV
3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
In all that we say, does it show love and faithfulness. Is that what is shown around our neck? Or is it our insecurity? Our never-ending quest to feel vindicated and validated? To be told those lovely words…you are right! We can wield our words like brutal weapons to get that answer…however the answer we should be getting is....God is right. God understands and I should follow him. So we should exercise caution when speaking the truth that we don’t go down a brutal path.
However, there is another end to that spectrum. We don’t say anything regarding the truth…only what the person wants to hear.
Proverbs 27:5-6
Proverbs 27:5–6 NIV
5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
Have you had a friend who had to tell you something hard. It made you look and feel bad…but you knew it was the truth. No matter how well they explain it, and all the kindness in the world, you will feel a wound with that. However....have you had someone not tell you the truth and then use it against you later. Whew…that friends is not a friend. We need the truth. We need to know when we have the mustard stain on our shirt…or the piece of food in our teeth…when our actions are producing qualities in us..that are not reflective of one is saved by grace of God. We need the truth. But we need it with love. Without it, it is just sentimentality.
Sentimentality to me is like cotton candy. Sure it can be nice but it is not nourishing. It doesn’t equate to a meal. You can throw sentimentality at hard things like tragedy, sin and it just crumbles…it just dissolves away. That is the same with love without truth.
To speak in love, we need to make sure that love is in our hearts and we are to balance truth and love. But there is a second point here....being made in verse 19.

2. In the Kingdom, followers of Christ speak less and with more intentionality.

Proverbs 10:19 NIV
19 Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.
The word here for Sin, other translations use the word transgression.....the Hebrew word points to crime, wrongdoing, A violation of a law, duty, or moral principle. It is behavior that is against the human or divine standard born out of rebellion. The person lacks good sense in his dealings and behavior because he has no restraint....the actions out of the words. He who talks too much will often offend others.
Friends, as I am sure some of you might guess, I have lived out this verse at different times of my life. As you think about your life, have you been able to use more words to avoid sin. NO! 99% of the time, it would be best if I shut my yapper, was still…and used my brain to think about what God would have me do next.
The word here for prudent in Hebrew points to one who is wise, who has insight, one who is skilled in understanding. The prudent and wise filter their thoughts BEFORE they say them....they do this by talking less. The odds are .....if you use 16,000 words a day, you are going to trip up on one of those words. James 3:5-6
James 3:5–6 NIV
5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
The point here is that by speaking less, we give ourselves time to do other activities. Such as listening. Truly listening to another person…not just thinking about what you are going to say next.
After we are listening, we can now do some thinking.....What is the best response that conveys truth and love? That conveys aspects of the gospel in this situation. If we don’t know.....perhaps we don’t say anything.
I must confess that I am still learning this. Somewhere in my past, I got it in to my head that it is not good to not know the answer. So I would talk....I would chase down the answer with my words. Sometimes it would work. Other times, it would show me to be so foolish. In conversations, this can happen to. Have you ever thought about letting others speak…even if you feel like you have more to contribute? Using humility to listen and think…to ponder…before we speak is a characteristic of one who follows Christ.
In our culture today, we have fallen in love with a misguided idea of authenticity. We can be authentically wrong. But today if its how we feel, than it is ok to say. We teach children self-control…but somehow as adults we can think it doesn’t apply to us. Make the words count!
So as followers of Christ, speak out of love, we use less words and more intentionality when speaking to others. But what worth do we give this wisdom in speech? Let’s look at verse 20.

3. Followers of Christ find value in righteousness

Proverbs 10:20–21 NIV
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value. 21 The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.
In this verse, we see the value of one who speaks with wisdom one who is posturing themselves in the right way before God. Choice silver....the best and highly desired resource. This is compared to that of those who are wicked. Their hearts have little value.
As a parent, I experience this. My children are not wicked but they do occasionally have some misguided ideas. As an adult this never happens to me (cue laugh).
Jen and I did some backbreaking work putting in an above ground pool in our backyard. So much work. Not remotely like the way the describe it on the packaging. It will be easy…wrong.
However, after several trips to the chiropractor, we got through it. The day came for the boys, Benjamin and Charlie, to try out the new pool. Charlie got there first and started climbing the ladder to get in. He suddenly got nervous. I said can I help you. He reluctantly agreed so I lifted him up and began to set in the pool. Very slowly. He started to cry because he didn’t think he could touch. Our pool is 42 inch deep. He can absolutely touch. But he was afraid and so he started getting scared which led to crazy behavior. Meanwhile, I am getting annoyed…this behavior is of no value. This lacks so much sense. You should be laughing and loving life but instead I am sitting here holding you up as you tuck your legs in as you are afraid you can’t touch. Finally, I convince him to put his legs down and his feet touch. His crying immediately stops and he laughs and goes..oh wow…that was crazy.
Sigh…friends. We are not that dissimilar....the value of wise words is infinitely greater to foolish talk and sinful thoughts. How often we see others or more accurately find ourselves engaged in foolishness that has no value. We should in fact value righteousness. When we engage with others, are we valuing that which appeals to who God is? or are we elevating who we want to be?
A whole other sermon could be preached…most likely by someone far more skilled than I…on the value of rightousness. Are we striving to have the same attitude as Christ.? Righteousness breaks down our self-will and that is the incredible benefit and goal for a disciple; to have the same mindset that Jesus had when He came to this world: “Behold, I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God,” and: “… not My will, but Yours, be done.”
Do we value a life that is in keeping with God’s purposes? A life that is living out faithfulness and obedience? Do we value justice, virtue, purity, and peace? These are signs of rightousness. Do we value them…or are we looking for other things.
When we look for other things, we find ourselves living out lives as scared kids with our legs tucked underneath us…crying out out of ignorant fear when all we need to do is put our feet down on solid ground.
We are to value righteousness and that is reflected in what we talk about. But what are our words supposed to do. That is our final point.

4. Followers of Christ use wise words to build others up and coach

In Proverbs 10:21
Proverbs 10:21 NIV
21 The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.
We see the purpose of our words is to nourish many. We are to nourish. The Hebrew word here for nourish points to the idea of feeding.... to give food to, to provide food for a flock, or to care for any need for a flock such a grazing pasture, to be a shepherd that has authority over his flock. In this case, the metaphor is basically saying that a righteous person who is in a position of leadership (e.g., a king), who offers words of counsel, advice, or instruction will be of benefit (feed) to those people who hear (obey) them.
Our words are to nourish. They are not meant to elevate us. They are not meant to shallowly entertain, they are meant to nourish. Provide life. Perhaps we will use less words when we pull out that which does not nourish?
I was drawn to the idea of a good coach. One who knows there clients or players or members…knows their strengths and weaknesses and uses words along with actions to bring out the very best of them and for them. The ultimate goal is a thriving life as an offering to the Lord. That is what we all should be coaching one another to. Our words should be aimed toward that goal. Our words should enhance others. Leave them better than how we found them? Two verses stick out to me on this....
1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV
11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Ephesians 4:29 NIV
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
God’s word makes it clear that our words are to nourish. To benefit those who listen to our words. However, if our goal is not to benefit, why would they listen?
Have you known people who like to use their words as little mini grenades. They like to happen upon someone and pop the pin, throw a little passive aggressive comment into the mix. Walk off…pretending as if that wasn’t their plan all along. Friends, this is not the way of those who have been saved. We are to enhance. We are to coach up. We build up our neighbors with the words that we say. Even when we are to correct, we do so in a way that enhances, rather than mutilates.
When I think about hard relationships in my life, I find that the times I struggled mightily were when coaches, leaders spoke criticisms that seemed meant for my destruction rather than for building me up. Have you had this experience? Words that seem to pin you down where you are rather than spur you on to love and good deeds?
As you consider how to use your wise words, run them through a filter. Is this for the purpose of building up, for encouraging, is it helpful? Does it nourish?

Conclusion

As I wrap up today, I want to make sure you all hear me on a couple of critical things in the application of our wise words. The first thing is that method matters....method matters.

Method Matters

We got it in our minds somewhere that the ends justify the means. As followers of Christ, we can’t believe this for a second. That might be a cultural statement that is believed, but as followers of Christ....we must engage in methods that reflect the holy spirit…that reflect the truth…because Christ is truth. Let us not cast a poor light on what it means to follow Christ by choosing methods that inaccurately reflect Christ.

Timing

Consider things like the timing of your words. Is this the best time to convey the encouraging message I need to give.

Tone of Voice and body language

I can’t tell you how many times I have been in conversations or heard conversations where one or both people involved are struggling to use the tone of voice correctly. Your tone of voice should reflect the purpose you have....in other words…is the tone of voice encouraging....is it building others up. The tone of voice can distract the message very quickly.
I would also add that our reactions and body language can have the same positive or negative effect. Friends, the amount of times that people come up after a service and say “wow....this was so great to worship and love God today as a family. I really enjoyed it”
I have never said it but I am telling you now that I have thought....”You should really get your face on board with that”. Standing there with arms crossed and a scowl....does that convey what you want to convey? Be intentional....with your tone of voice and body language just like you should be with your words.

No Guarantee on Response

You can say all the right things in all the right ways. You can speak wisdom and truth over someone with the sole purpose of seeing them encouraged and coached up.
And their response can be for you to head to hades. They can say “there’s the door. I don’t have to listen to this”
Wise Words and Wise Intentions.....do not guarantee a wise response.
If we know that, I would urge you to have patience and give grace. We are all broken. We all have things in our lives that the Lord is working on us. Moulding us and shaping us. That takes time…and none of us have reacted perfectly to the wisdom presented to us. So have patience and grace. And remember that it is not you and I who save....or change people. The Lord does that…and he is so much better at it than we ever could be.

END

The repercussions of our words can last a long while. Families live out the consequences of foolish words and bad communication all the time. Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Let us as a family of believers choose to use wise words. As followers of Christ, we are to speak out of heart of love for God and for others. We are to be intentional with our words and learn to listen....speak less to do this. We are to value righteousness....value that which God loves. And finally we are to build others up with our words.....all the while giving grace and patience just as Christ gives to us. Let us pray
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