Although the first two passages are pretty clear, our third passage needs an explanation. In Proverbs 30:33, it says that there are things that are inevitable. If you’re churning cream, it will turn to butter. If you get punched in the nose or your nose gets wrung, it will start bleeding.
In the same way, the forcing of wrath – when we push it and promote it – brings anger. The passage says coals to coals, but our modern-day equivalent would be “adding wood to a fire” or “gasoline on a fire.” You throw gas on a fire, it’s going to get bigger.
Another translation of Proverbs 30:33 translates this phrase “forcing of wrath” as the “squeezing” of anger. It literally is a reference to pressure and insistence, and the context is clear.
With our mouths, we can add coal (or gasoline) to a fire.
Anybody ever pour gasoline on a fire? I was silly enough to do that when I was a kid. You don’t expect to put the fire out with gasoline, right?
Don’t try this at home, boys, okay? But, if you want to get a fire started really good, forget this Boy Scout stuff about rubbing sticks together. Instead, pour a little gasoline and then light it with a match. You don’t need kindling, just, just a match and you have a fire.
Of course, I’m only being facetious to make a point. Our words can be like gasoline on fire in the hearts of our hearers.
The Bible says that this squeezing of anger, this pressure, this insistence with our words, brings strife.
A soft answer turneth away wrath: But grievous words stir up anger.
– Proverbs 15:1 KJV
Unlike a soft answer that turns away wrath, harsh and unmanaged mouths increase wrath. That’s how it is.
Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of physics tells us that, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. And in no other arena of life is this law more obvious than in managing our mouths. The truth is we don’t even need Sir Isaac Newton on this one. Because we know it’s true from personal experience. Quite frankly, much of the book of Proverbs makes it clear that when there is action with our mouths, there is an opposite reaction from the hearer or the recipient of our words.
You cannot, in almost any circumstance, say something without it having an effect on those who hear you. There is action. Hot air comes through your mouth and you say words, and then there is a reaction, a response from those you heard us.
The Bible is clear that we are either blessing with our mouths or we are cursing with our mouths.
We are either building up or we are tearing down.
We are lifting up or we are putting down.
We are either healing or wounding.
All those things can happen with just our words.
It really does matter how we manage our mouths or not. In fact, there are eternal ramifications for what we do with our words. When you bless or curse somebody, either a brother or sister in the church or a fellow human being, there are eternal ramifications.
I want for us to really consider the trouble that we, not the devil, created for ourselves. It’s so easy to point to the devil and say it’s his fault. But sometimes, the devil had nothing to do with it. Still, he can, and always will, use it to our disadvantage.
If we’re honest with ourselves tonight we can say that, so many times and on so many occasions, we have created trouble for ourselves because we were not careful with the words that we used. Every time we open our mouths, Newton’s third law comes into effect and there’s an action and reaction. We say something and either bless and edify someone or we tear down, curse, and put them down. The second kind of action puts somebody’s soul at stake as they are wounded and damaged because of the words that came out of our mouth.
Think about the problems that you have created in your life because you said something that you shouldn’t have said. Even if it was the right thing to say, maybe it was bad timing. It’s an issue for all of us, even me.
And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. – James 3:6-8 KJV
The truth is tonight, we all must mature as Christians. We all need to learn to be more Christ-like and part of that responsibility is managing our mouths so we don’t hurt ourselves and others with our words.
- In the heat of anger: Kind words decrease wrath (Proverbs 15:1) but, in the heat of the moment when we feel offended and hurt, we can say something we regret. It’s in this moment that the Bible tells us to keep silent.
- When you don’t have all the facts: I’m reminded of Joe Friday saying, “Just the facts, maam.” It’s amazing how fast our mouths can work before we have all of the facts. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 18:13 that answering a matter before hearing brings us folly and shame.
- When you haven’t verified the story: In Deuteronomy 17:6, the Bible says that a matter would be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses. But if there was only one, the issue would remain undecided.
- If you might offend a weaker saint: in 1 Corinthians 8:11, we read that we can cause a weaker brother (or sister) to perish or be destroyed because of what we say or do. Before we lash out with our tongues and cut someone down, we may want to remember that Jesus died for them just like He did for us. We are called upon to restore and to strengthen those who are weak. Not verbally murder them.
- If you will make God or His church look bad: In 1 Peter 2:21, we read that Christ left us an example that we should do no sin, be guileless, and entrust ourselves to God who judges righteously. Each saint is an ambassador of their church. When an ambassador speaks, is as though the president, king, or the potentate that sent them is speaking. The ambassador to China, when he says something to Xi Jinping, it is as though President Biden is speaking. It is a direct reflection of the authority and power that sent that ambassador. If your words are going to be a poor reflection on God or his church or his kingdom, don’t do it. Don’t say it. Zip it.
- When tempted to mock holy things: In Ecclesiastes 5:2, we read that we should not be rash or hasty with our mouth, but let our “words be few” because God is in heaven and we are upon the earth. I love this verse because it tells us to remember our place. God is on His throne in heaven, reigning omnipotent and we are just human beings. What place do we have to mock heavenly when we are part of the earthly?
- When tempted to joke about sin: Proverbs 14:9 tells us that fools make a mock of sin, but that there is favor among the righteous. Sin is not a laughing matter. We should not glorify, promote, or give credence to things which are not pleasing to God.
- If you think you will regret your words later: Proverbs 8:8 talks about having righteousness in all of our words, with nothing froward or perverse in them. Once our words leave our mouth, they are there forever, floating around in somebody’s brain and heart. If you take time to think about it, you can probably remember words that someone, maybe an aunt, parent, boss, or coworker, said to you 10 or even 40 years ago that you have never forgotten. It could have happened decades ago, but it’s still out there. Guard your tongue. Guard your mouth.
- If you will give the wrong impression: Proverbs 17:27 tells us that a man with knowledge spares his words. There are outright lies and there are partial truths. It may not be an out-and-out lie, but it’s a thinly veiled discrepancy. You may not be lying but you know that it’s deceiving the person. If your words can convey the wrong impression, don’t use those words. Let’s guard our lips.
- When it’s none of your business: Jude 10 talks about people who “speak evil of those things which they know not” and calls them brute beasts. It’s amazing how quickly we can integrate ourselves into issues that never had and never will have anything to do with us.
- When you’re tempted to lie: Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us seven things that God calls an abomination to him and a lying tongue is included in that list. Apparently, God has a real problem with lying. Maybe it has something to do with the devil being the father of lies. We’re all tempted to lie at times and it may be the easier choice. Sometimes it’s your age, but other times it may be something that will put on a path veering away from God. When you’re tempted to lie, keep your mouth closed. Because God does not like lying.
- If you will damage someone’s reputation: Proverbs 16:27 says that an ungodly man diggeth up evil and has as burning fire in his lips. A reputation is like a credit score. It can take years to get up to a good number like 720, 750, or whatever number you’re aiming for. But just one bad deal and, all of the sudden, your credit is on the floor. Reputations are the same way. People that can spend years or decades building up their reputation, and one word that can completely destroy it and bring it down. Be careful with your words.
- If you will destroy a friendship: Proverbs 16:28 says that a froward man (remember, froward means perverse) causes strife and that a whisperer separates “chief friends.” The Bible calls someone who divides friends a wicked, twisted, and perverted person. Isn’t it amazing? A whispered word, a little bit of gossip, and it can separate best friends, BFFs. Is that still a thing, ladies? Is that, I don’t want to sound like I’m in the 90s, but, but BFFs used to mean best friends forever. Just a little whispering, a little gossip, a little discord, and all of a sudden, people are going in different directions. If your words might destroy a friendship, keep your mouth shut.
- If you are feeling critical: Has anybody ever just felt critical? In James 3:8-10, we read about the tongue and how easily our tongue can cause trouble. Our criticism of others is always justified in our minds. It’s always justified. They deserve it. They’ve earned it. They shouldn’t have been like that. They shouldn’t have said that to me. It’s always justified in our minds. Someone needs to say it. We’ve all heard that or thought that before. We are always righteous in our scathing of other people. But we need to be mindful and careful when we feel we have a critical spirit. It’d be horrible to be known for blessing God but cursing men with the same mouth. To sing like an angel in church then talk like a devil the rest of the week.
- If you can’t speak without yelling: Proverbs 25:28 tells us that when we don’t rule our spirit, we are like a broken-down city that doesn’t have walls. Let me tell you that yelling rarely helps anyone. Now, if a rock is about to fall on me, please yell at me. If a car’s about to hit me, please yell. Don’t whisper. Many times, parents are frustrated and confused why their kids don’t listen when they yell at them. It’s because they’ve gotten used to it. If those same parents whispered or spoke gently, they would probably get their children’s attention.
- When it is time to listen: Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us that there is a time to keep silent and a time to speak. It’s very hard to speak and listen at the same time. Is it just me or is that true? We men especially, we want to solve all of the problems using our logic and our reason. We have the solution to everything. But often, all our wives really want is our attention and our attentive listening. It’s amazing what we all can learn when we just listen. There’s a time to fix the problem and a time to hear about the problem.
- If you might have to eat your words later: Proverbs 18:21 tells us that death and life are in the power of our tongue and that we will eat the fruit of our mouth. Eating our words can be a very painful, very humbling experience. We need to understand the consequences of what we are saying. We need to understand that our words have profound, sometimes eternal, effect on the hearer. And, we have to be careful and considerate and ask God to guard our mouths and get our hearts right. Remember when we spoke about heart-mouth disease? It’s out of our heart that our mouth speaks. Our words literally come from our heart. So, if we want our mouth to be right, we must get our heart right with God.
- If you have already said it enough times: Proverbs 19:13 says that a foolish son is the calamity of his father and the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping. You know what Chinese water torture is? Literally, they tie people up and position them so a drop of cold water lands repeatedly on their forehead. They can’t do anything about it. It seems like no big deal because it’s only water. Just give it about 13 hours and you start losing your mind. This is what the Bible means when it says the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping.
- When you are tempted: This one is especially important when you are tempted to flatter a wicked person. Proverbs 24:25 says that, when we call a wicked person righteous, nations and other people will abhor us. But, when we rebuke them and help them change, good blessings shall come upon us. We love people and, if backsliders truly repent, God can and will forgive and restore them. But we have to be very careful how we compliment and bless people who are not blessable. Don’t tell backsliders with makeup that they are beautiful. Don’t tell a backslider with a cigarette that they are cool. We want them to feel welcome to come back to God, but also realize that coming to God requires transformation, not acceptance, of who they are. Also, when we rebuke them, we don’t have to be in their face and calling them horrible, dirty scoundrels. Rebuking somebody can also mean you pull them to the side and have a cup of coffee and go, “Listen, this is not the life that you need to be living. You need to be changed. You need to be different. How about doing things better?”
- When you are supposed to be working: Proverbs 14:23 says that there is profit in all labor, but the talk of the lips only results in penury or poverty. If you’re supposed to be working and not talking, the Bible says, get to work.
Words have killed far more people than guns ever have. Dirty looks and curses have cut far deeper than knives ever could. The tongue is sharper than any Damascus steel blade of a sword could ever be, and we, as the redeemed of the Lord, we have to place a guard in our mouth.
We have to recognize the power of our voice and of our words, that there are eternal consequences for how we use our voice and manage our mouths.
It’s no wonder that David prayed for God’s help:
Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth;
keep the door of my lips. – Psalm 141:3 KJV
David is not referring to a watch to tell time, but a group of guards. A watch was a particular number of guards. People that would protect something and guard against something.
If we think about our mouth as a gate, as a door, we must ask, “what are we letting out that door?” and “what are we willing to keep in?”. The Bible says, there’s times when we need to shut that door, double-deadbolt-lock that door and put a put a chain on the door.
All the while my breath is in me,
and the spirit of God is in my nostrils;
My lips shall not speak wickedness,
nor my tongue utter deceit. – Job 27:3-4 KJV
Only with the help of the Holy Ghost can we manage our mouths and guard our lips and tame our tongues so that we can use words for the right reasons and to accomplish the right purposes and to please God.
- To praise God: Psalm 35:28 says that, “My tongue shall speak of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long.”
- To compose songs and sing unto the Lord: Psalm 45:1 says, “My heart is overflowing with a good theme. I recite my composition concerning the king. My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” Man, that’s a good verse for you if you can sing your way out of a wet recycled paper bag. Let your tongue be a pen and your voice an instrument that brings praise, glory, and honor to God.
- To speak God’s word: Psalms 119:172 says, “My tongue shall speak of your word for all your commandments are righteousness.”
- To edify, encourage, and bless others: Proverbs 31:26 says, “She opens her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
There are times to keep our mouths closed. And then there are other times to open up our mouth. And I want to learn as a child of God when those times are because people’s eternity could be dependent on what I say. And, certainly, there are troubles and trials and storms that I can create for myself if I’m pouring gasoline upon a fire. If I’m doing that, the fire will only get bigger, stronger, and hotter, and create more damage to me and those around me.
If I am forcing words of aggression and anger, I’m going to create havoc. I’m going to create problems. I’m going to create trouble. Let’s choose to bless and encourage one another instead.
As we close out this service, let’s all bless one another because it ought not to be that we bless God and curse our brother and our sister. God bless you all.