“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” Prov 15:1

by Steven Chan
20 December 2009

The Bible declares that it is a real challenge to try to control our tongue. It says that “if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man” (James 3:2). It highlights the incredible and disproportionate amount of destruction that may be unleashed by a carelessly spoken word! (James 3:5-6).  In fact, it is said that “the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). But the Bible says: “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10). As Christians we must do our best to bring into captivity to Christ not just our deeds, thoughts and imaginations (2 Cor 10:5) but also our tongue!

In Col 4:6, the Bible says: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” According to Prov 16:23-24: “The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips. Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” Prov 25:11  states that “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” When used as intended by God, the tongue can offer healing/relief as well as stated in Prov 12:25: “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.” (NKJV)

In 1 Kings 12:13-17, the Bible records for us how the nation of Israel was divided because King Rehoboam failed to give a gentle answer to the people: “And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him; and spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions… So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, what portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents. But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them.”

One wonders how much hurt and division have occurred because one failed to obey the Lord’s command to let our speech or word be gracious, as it were seasoned with salt so that we may know how we ought to answer each person. Are we not concerned that we will incur the wrath of God when we speak ungraciously and roughly towards those we may be in conversation with? Sometimes marriages and relationships are also broken or divided because of words that are harshly or carelessly spoken. Will we not learn from the sad example of King Rehoboam who lost 10 tribes because he was unwilling to listen the wise counsel of the older men – and answered roughly to the people?

Why do some continue to persist in uttering grievous words – i.e. words that will cause grief, pain and hurt to those who hear them? The Bible says: “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10) Can we not learn to tame our tongue and use it for God’s glory by speaking “pleasant words which are sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Prov 16:24)? As stated in Eph 4:29: “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.” Are we using our speech to edify others and to give grace to them that hear? If not, we need to pray earnestly for God’s grace to help us change our speech so that we can honor Him with our tongues as well. Let us not contribute to anger by our unedifying and grievous words.