"Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense. The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near." Proverbs 10:12 - 14 (ESV)
Have you ever been somewhere that was extremely dusty? Imagine being inside a barn or out in the desert when someone starts kicking dirt and dust everywhere. It does not take long before your clothes are covered and you start coughing. Even a small amount of dust can cause discomfort to your respiratory system. It feels horrible to have your respiratory system full of dust particles; you begin coughing almost instantly and it can be hard to breathe. The same is true when it comes to hatred. A little bit of hatred can stir up a great deal of strife and pain. One person can create a dusty condition while a few people can really stir up a full-blown storm.
The words we use have the power to build up or destroy, and a few flagrant comments can create a dust storm of exponential proportions. When we were kids, we would say, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." The older I get, the less I believe that idiom. Words have the power to bring life and death. In Matthew 12:34b, Jesus is having a conversation with the Pharisees and He reminds them that, "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks". The words we use reveal what’s inside of our hearts. Do you want to know if someone is wise? Just listen to what comes out of their mouth. Stick and stones can break your bones, and words from the mouth of a fool can bring ruin.
Less is More
"When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent." Proverbs 10:19 (ESV)
The Message translation of this passage reads "The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words." In other words, the more we talk, the more we lie. If you give someone who is lying the chance to talk, they will take all the time in the world to explain their actions. Wisdom, on the other hand, is being able to measure our words and to know when we should speak. Sometimes saying less is more.
Reflect and Respond
Are you adding strife to the conversation and leading people astray? It could be uncomfortable to consider that our words are having negative effects on people who see us on a regular basis (or read your status updates on Twitter). Take a few minutes to examine the way you speak to other people. Are you using wisdom and restraint? Or, are you stirring up strife like a dust storm? The good news is that today is a new day and you have a chance to speak life into the people you encounter today. Ask God to help you measure your words and speak life today.