Proverbs 18 – The Tongue: Wellspring of Life, or Sanctified Cannibalism?

Proverbs 18What is the course and fruit of your tongue?

All throughout the pages of wisdom, the contrast between two different spirits portrayed by the tongue are brought to light. In this chapter. We see its power for good or evil: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Someone else’s existence and entire life may hinge on things said by another’s mouth. The usefulness of individuals’ futures may hinge on the balances between being able to do a fluid and prosperous work for the Kingdom, or be robbed of its usefulness just by the words of another.

“The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” Anyone who has been in the sights of a mouth shooting off as a loose cannon will feel the force of these words. God warned His people to stay far away from going up and down as a talebearer and standing against their neighbor’s blood. Right after this warning, the Lord then depicts the real roots of what this inquisition are: “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart. . . . Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people” (Leviticus 19:16-18). Within the church this masquerades under a cloak of sanctity. Satan moves upon an offended member to speak mostly truths, partial truths, and non-truths to place his victim in a most unfavorable light, insinuating upon dark motives for his target. Then, to give it an air of care for the individual, something is said to the effect of, “Yes, we need to pray for so and so because of these things.” Yes, “when the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach” for those whom their contentions keep them walled in “like the bars of a castle.”

Well has it been written: “We think with horror of the cannibal who feasts on the still warm and trembling flesh of his victim; but are the results of even this practice more terrible than are the agony and ruin caused by misrepresenting motive, blackening reputation, dissecting character? Let the children, and the youth as well, learn what God says about these things: ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue.'” No light words come for such, as the above continues, “In Scripture, backbiters are classed with ‘haters of God,’ with ‘inventors of evil things,’ with those who are ‘without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful,’ ‘full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity.’ It is ‘the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death.'” Education, 235-236. The Word of God is a deep and true judgment above all besides.

This chapter also presents the blessings procured from the tongue that flows forth a sweet spring of knowledge and wisdom. The two sides are contrasted. “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.” When hands come to pick through your tree, what manner of fruit will be found? The water is known by its taste, whether the spirit and words be bitter unto a savor of death, or of sweetness unto life. Who will not judge after the hearing of the ears (especially that of a talebearer), and the seeing of the eyes? But rather judge by the fruits manifested in deed and words.

May your tongue yield the peaceable fruit of life unto life,

Jeffrey Maxwell


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