“If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all”
“Hey! You should watch your mouth!”
How may times as a child were you told that? How many times as a parent have I said that?
One of my jobs as a parent it to teach my children how to become effective communicators. And it is my responsibility to train them in how to do so with grace, dignity, and a loving spirit.
The best way that I can teach my children these skills is to model it on a consistent basis.
The woman found in Proverbs 31 shows us how this is accomplished through the ability to use a prudent tongue.
Being ‘prudent’ can fall in any number of categories, however, for the purpose of our study on this remarkable woman we are going to focus on the area of having a prudent tongue.
To paint a word picture of a prudent person we see someone who is practically wise. They are aware of the potential consequence and makes action decisions based around that.
Proverbs 31:26 says:
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue
Here we see that she thinks before she speaks and she uses words to project kindness to others around her. James 3:5 reminds us that our tongue is such a small part of the human body and yet it has the capabilities to lift up or destroy so much. Backing up to James 3:2 we learn that if a person has control of their tongue the are able to be in control of their whole body.
This woman, our picture of the ideal, is capable of having that type of control.
Examples of a Prudent (and Not So Prudent) Tongues in Scripture
The Bible is full of places that direct us in how we are to use our tongue. We have examples of how to speak and how not to speak.
In Exodus we find that Miriam, a woman who longed to follow God whole-heartedly, allowed her tongue to get the better of her. Her sharp, complaining tongue got her into a heap of trouble and she found she had to reap the consequences in the form of a physical malady.
We see that Isaiah had his tongue cleansed first by God before anything else, a reminder that we too need to have our tongues cleansed from.
Think Before You Speak
Colossians 4:6 says
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer another person.
We are called to use our words wisely. Colossians reminds us we need to stop and think before we open our mouths and speak. However, before we really begin to get control of our mouths and the words that we say we have to stop and take the time to evaluate what is in our heart.
Luke 6:45 states that what is in our heart will come out of our mouths. If we want to be sure that we are allowing up-lifting, edifying, gracious things to be what comes out of our mouths we have to first start with what we are allowing into our hearts.
The best way to ensure the things that are going in are the things we want coming out is to daily make Psalm 19:14 be our earnest prayer.
Once that prayer has become a part of daily life, the next step to take is to filter everything you intend to say through the following list of criteria:
- Is it kind?
- Is it necessary
- Is it true?
- Is it gossip?
- Am I defending my own opinion rather than engaging in active listening?
By filtering our words through these 5 questions we might just be surprised at how little we will have to say to begin with. Once we start to really hone in and focus on using our words for edifying and uplifting, we begin to really see just how little of that has actually been done in the past.
Becoming An Encourager Rather Than a Discourager
The Proverbs 31 woman made encouragement a part of her daily life. She used her words for imparting wisdom and kindness, seeking to lift others up rather than tear them down. We can follow her example by becoming women who encourage by inspiring others with a renewed courage, spirit, or hope. We can use our words to affirm other’s character while directing them to more beneficial actions. Through prayer, coming along side those who are in physical need, and learning to display gratefulness we can train ourselves to search for the positive character qualities in those around us.
A Final Thought
Early on in the semester we were encouraged to try out a little experiment. It goes a little like this:
- Determine your height in inches
- Stick out your tongue and measure the length when out as far as you can get it
- Determine the size of your tongue compared to your height in inches
I did this little experiment and I came to find that I am roughly 65 inches tall. When sticking my tongue out as far as I could get it, it measured at just shy of 2.5 inches long. That is a BIG difference between my height and the length of my tongue. However, that little 2.5 inches is often far more powerful than any of the rest of my 65 inches could ever be. We see throughout Scripture that if we do not learn to control the smallest of body parts we will be overtaken. It is truly amazing how something so relatively small can either build up in a great fashion or tear down in utter devastation. The question that we have to answer is how are we going to use our tongues?
How do you use your tongue to encourage others? Would you consider yourself “prudent” when considering your speech? How can you more more in that direction today? Join us next time as we discuss the principle of being lovable.