Sunday, 14 September 2008 00:00

Apples of Gold: Gentle Speech

Proverbs 15:4 (ESV)

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.

The Bible tells us there are two kinds of speech: reckless words that are like "pierces of swords" (Proverbs 12:18) and apt words that are like "apples of gold" (Proverbs 25:11). We begin our examination of the second category of speech by looking at gentle words. "A gentle tongue is a tree of life" (ESV) or "A wholesome tongue is a tree of life" (KJV).

  1. Gentle words convey a concern for the health and wholeness (life) of another.
    The word translated "gentle" or "wholesome" (Heb. rapha) literally means "healing." It's translated physician in Genesis 50:2, and healed as in "by his stripes we are healed," Isaiah 53:5. In the same manner a physician cares for his patients, or as Christ went to the cross for us, so a follower of Jesus Christ ought to speak to others; in concern for their life.
    1. This spirit of "gentleness" ends arguments before they begin.
      Where do fights come from? They come from your selfish desires (James 4:1).For a person to fight, he has lost the perspective of gentleness. That's not to say one should give in, or be the doormat, but one does what must be done gently.
    2. This spirit of "gentleness" is extraordinarily unselfish.
      Throughout the New Testament we see a contrast between those who are led by the flesh, and those who are led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:17-26; Romans 8:5-9). The time you are most prone to speak rash words is when you are in the flesh. When is that? F L E S H = take the word flesh, turn it around and drop the h = S E L F.
  2. Gentle words can then be compared to a "tree of life."
    Some of the imagery in the Old Testament loses its impact because of our ignorance. God made mankind "in His own image" (Genesis 1:26-28). He placed the first man and woman in Eden where they freely ate fruit from the tree of life (Genesis 2:9). The fruit of this tree of life is not identified, but its name means the tree gives life. "It is the Spirit that gives life" (John 6:63) so the tree of life represents the Spirit of God. When your words are controlled by the Spirit of God, and you speak words that are designed for the welfare, health and wholesome good of another, you are giving life.

    "But I'm human. I yell, scream, curse, indict, judge, condemn, scold, shame, etc. "Perverseness in it (your tongue) breaks the spirit. Perverseness means "crookedness." God designed you to speak words that bring life to the soul of others, but when that design becomes crooked or flawed, then you end up "breaching" the soul of another. Break ("breach" KJV) means to break in pieces; it is the very opposite of wholeness.

    1. When you speak selfish, harmful, rash words, it fragments the soul of another.
    2. When someone else speaks cutting, hurtful words, it reveals a fragmented soul.
  3. Gentle words are ultimately the measure of your heart's treasure.
    In Romans 8, the Spirit chapter, Paul describes the incredible work of God's Spirit. All who are led by the Spirit of God (including our speech) are sons of God (v.14). The way you speak to others is genuinely a matter of life and death—your own life. This is why one's words become the measurement of the Spirit's residence in us.

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