Proverbs 10:18–21 (NKJV)

18 Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, And whoever spreads slander is a fool. 19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise. 20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; The heart of the wicked is worth little. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of wisdom.

Throughout Proverbs and the rest of Scripture we are frequently exhorted to keep watch over our tongues. Though the tongue is small, it has immense importance and tremendous impact. So we must learn, as God’s people, to control our tongues.

So take note of the contrasts in our text today. On the one hand we have the tongues of the wicked and the fool. Not all fools are wicked; but all wicked men are fools. We are told two things about the tongue of the wicked. His tongue speaks lies and it speaks lies because what comes out of his mouth emerges from his heart. And, Solomon tells us, the heart of the wicked is worth little. The heart of the wicked is corrupt and so their lips speak corruption. For their part, fools spread this slander. They pick it up from the wicked and then spread it abroad rather than locking it away. Rather than restrain their lips, they repeat whatever they hear. They are fools.

On the other hand, we have the tongue of the wise. The wise man restrains his lips. He exercises self-control over his tongue. He is aware that just because he knows something, or feels something, or thinks something, that doesn’t mean that those things need to be shared. Before speaking, the wise man weighs matters in his heart and so he speaks with discretion. Consequently, his tongue is as choice silver. His words have value because he chooses carefully when and what to speak.

Notice, therefore, that while the tongue of the wise feeds others, the tongue of the foolish can’t even sustain the fool himself. The lips of the righteous feed many – the lips of the righteous bring blessing, encouragement, and edification to those they meet – but fools die for lack of wisdom ­– the lips of fools bring discouragement and destruction, blight and famine in their wake so that fools no longer have relationships, food to sustain themselves.

So what of you? How have you used your tongue this week? Have you wickedly slandered others? Have you foolishly repeated the slanders of the wicked, listened to their lies and shared them with your neighbors? Have you multiplied words without knowledge? Or have you restrained your lips and considered carefully in your heart each time you speak? This is the mandate Paul gives us, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (4:29).

Reminded that we are called to exercise self-control over our tongues that we may give life to others, let us acknowledge that we often speak when we should be silent and that, even when we should speak, we often tear down what is good rather than build up others in the truth. We often behave like fools and so sin in the multitude of words. Reminded of this, let us confess our sin to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able.