Proverbs 12:18

Proverbs 12:18 "There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health."
Proverbs 12:18 Church Christian Buffalo NY
It should not surprise anyone that a man gifted with words addressed our words quite frequently in his writings.  Solomon had a way with words and is responsible for over 16,000 of them in the Bible.  He used many of those words to advise his readers to seriously consider their own words.  How we speak and what we say in life carries extreme weight over the course of our life.  In Proverbs 18:21, Solomon wrote, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof."  Given the punch our words pack, the soul who sincerely considers the nature of his tongue is wise.  What does YOUR tongue produce - death or life?  What does YOUR tongue tend to do - hurt or help?  What is YOUR tongue known for - complaining or edifying?  What is YOUR tongue like - a weapon or medication?

In this proverb, there are two clear types of tongues but only one noted virtue.  Because of the obvious contrast between the two types of tongues as the result of using the word, "but," we can easily deduce that Solomon is teaching us that the person who speaks like the piercing of a sword is a FOOL.  This proverb is not merely pointing out the sharpness of a fool's words; it is exposing the manner in which those words are delivered.  Solomon did not describe a fool's tongue as a sword; he likened a fool's speech to the PIERCING of a sword.  Piercing is jabbing.  Piercing is as direct as it gets.  Piercing is intended to be unforgettable and irreparable.  Ears are pierced without any desire for that skin to be healed.  Jesus' hands and feet were pierced without any desire for healing or repair.  Jesus' side was pierced without any thought of recovery.  Piercings are meant to be permanent.  Piercings aren't thought through.  They're not drawn out procedures governed by gentleness and delicacy.  Piercings are hasty rapid extensions of sharp objects intending to do immediate and long-lasting damage.

This is the nature of a fool's tongue.  He speaks rapidly and sharply.  He makes verbal jabs with no thought of healing or recovery.  He says what's on his mind and more accurately, what's in heart.  In fact, when paired with the preceding proverb, this proverb teaches us that when a person speaks like the piercing of a sword, he is revealing a heart full of hatred and deceit.  The man who hastily jabs his wife and children with painfully pointed words is a fool.  The woman who easily blurts out nasty things to her husband and children is a fool.  Words, like a sharp objects, carry great weight.  When used without respect for that weight, people get hurt.  When used without precision and thoughtfulness, words pierce hearts and do irreparable damage to people and relationships.
 
Shouting to your husband, "You're a narcissist!" is like the piercing of a sword.
Blurting out to your wife, "You're impossible!" is like the piercing of a sword.
Hastily saying to your teenage child, "You'll never amount to anything!" is like the piercing of a sword.
Yelling, "Do it again and I'll leave!" is like a piercing of a sword.

All of these examples and so many more like them are verbal jabs intending to do serious damage with no interest or thought of helping.  All of these and their family of verbal jabs are evidence of foolishness in the heart.  As a pastor, I've witnessed plenty of verbal jabs in counseling sessions and I've been on the receiving end of my fair share of verbal jabs.  This type of tongue stems from a heart desperately lacking in self-awareness.  A person who hastily delivers harsh verbal blows doesn't realize how foolish they sound.  In the moment, they don't realize that such jabs expose them as self-serving without any interest in nobly discussing a matter of concern.  In that moment where they're verbally striking, they don't realize they've just revealed that they only care about preserving and exalting themselves.  It does great damage to the relationship they're piercing as well as to themselves.  Death and life are in the power of the tongue.

The tongue of the wise is so very different.  It is different because the heart from which it speaks has virtue that tames and tempers it.  James tells us that the tongue is full of deadly poison (James 3:8) and then immediately asks, "who is a WISE man?" just a few verses later (verse 13).  Wisdom is the virtue that restrains the poison of the tongue and contains the deadly power of the tongue.  Proverbs 16:23 tells us, "the HEART of the wise teacheth his MOUTH."  Wisdom converts the naturally bitter words of the tongue into sweet words, which are mentioned in the following proverb.  Proverbs 16:24, "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and HEALTH to the bones."  Wisdom converts the poison of the tongue into words that offer medicinal value to its hearer.  Wisdom makes a tongue "wholesome," which according to Solomon, makes it a TREE OF LIFE for all who partake of its fruit (Proverbs 15:4).

Wisdom is the virtue that makes a man's tongue unnaturally helpful.  One obvious way that wisdom does this is by bringing happiness to a heart (Proverbs 3:13).  Because our mouths say what overflows out of our hearts (Mt. 12:34), our words will be happy words which will naturally be helpful words.  This is why Proverbs 17:22 tells us that "a merry heart doeth good LIKE A MEDICINE."  A wise man uses his words to help and heal.  A wise woman uses her words to encourage and edify.  A wise man speaks in such a way to bring truth and light.  A wise man carefully selects his words in order to build someone up and further a noble cause.
 
This proverb isn't suggesting that our words can't ever be sharp like a sword; it's just contrasting the difference between a wise man's words and a foolish man's words.  A fool PIERCES people with his sharp self-centered words doing permanent damage.  A wise man uses reproof and rebuke carefully and skillfully in order to help someone.  Whereas a fool uses his words like a sword to stab someone to death, a wise man uses his words like a scalpel to bring healing to a problem.  He knows that the words will hurt but he delivers them in a way that will avoid creating more problems (such as hitting arteries or cutting unnecessary muscles) and in a way that will allow for quicker healing.  A surgeon doesn't pierce a person's body, he cuts a person's skin only for the purpose of fixing a problem.

What we say and how we say it reveals either the presence or absence of wisdom.  Christians rarely use their hands to hurt anyone - they almost always use their words.  If we blurt out jabs, we're revealing a heart full of foolishness and hatred.  If we hastily send a nasty text or sarcastically make a backhanded comment, we're exposing a heart ruled by foolishness and selfishness.  If we shout out insults and baseless or unbiblical complaints, we're "speaking like the piercings of a sword."

What does YOUR tongue produce - death or life?  What does YOUR tongue tend to do - hurt or help?  What is YOUR tongue known for - complaining or edifying?  What is YOUR tongue like - a weapon or medication?

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