PROPER USE OF THE TONGUE
A second area wherein inspired wisdom’s counsel can help us to avoid unnecessary suffering in life is regarding the proper use of the tongue. Speaking out of turn, harsh tones, gossip, and discouraging words can all lead to needless troubles.
Whispering and rumor-mongering have been the genesis of human tragedy throughout history. Gossip not only puts one’s soul in jeopardy (Proverbs 6:17-19), it brings about suffering to both the innocent and guilty. Solomon noted, “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter” (Proverbs 11:13). The strongest of friendships can be destroyed by gossip (Proverbs 16:28), and many marriages have suffered by the spreading of hearsay. The suffering caused by gossip is clear from the graphic language of Proverbs twenty-six:
Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth. As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly (Proverbs 26:20-22).
Unnecessary suffering is certain when the tongue is used to spread rumors and gossip.
Another misuse of the tongue that is a constant companion to trouble is speaking when it is best to remain silent. Two proverbs directly address this “troublemaker.” The first stands in contrast to the wise son who hears: “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction” (Proverbs 13:3, cf. 1). The second proverb that highlights the wisdom of silence is worded very succinctly: “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23). How much superfluous suffering could be avoided if we could learn the lesson to “speak when spoken to.”
Another common misuse of the tongue that plagues us with unnecessary trouble is speaking about a matter without adequate knowledge. Solomon instructed, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Proverbs 18:13). The apostle Peter was guilty of this faux pas when he audaciously rebuked the Christ:
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. (Matthew 16:21-22).
How embarrassing the situation must have been for the apostle when Jesus openly announced to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23). Even Job, the esteemed and honorable servant of God (Job 1:8) was guilty of speaking without having proper knowledge: “Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.” (Job 42:3; cf. 38:2).
James made a true observation of wisdom when he penned “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” (James 3:5). Humanity could eliminate much unnecessary suffering by learning properly to use the tongue.
Next week we will consider that one’s choice of choosing a husband or wife can help avoid unnecessary suffering in life.