Proverbs 15:4

A Wholesome Tongue


1. In this proverb Solomon states a principle that is repeated in various ways in this book: words can either encourage or crush someone’s spirit.

2. Hence, while he doesn’t make the application, the application is obvious: be CAREFUL with our speech!

4a A wholesome tongue is a tree of life:

1. A wholesome tongue:

a. Wholesome: health; healing; cure; soothing; tranquil; sound; health; lacking disease or weakness.

b. Prov. 12:18 – ?There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.
• Solomon is describing the purpose of the tongue (speech) in ordinary conversation.
• A wholesome tongue is one which does not pierce like a sword. It is not cutting; offensive; It is not used to hurt others; to make others feel bad;
• That is not the tongue of a wise man… that is the tongue of a foolish man.
• A wise man uses his tongue to bring health… healing… like the balm of Gilead…
• He uses his tongue to cure, to sooth, to bring peace and tranquility.
• This is the way of the wise.

c. Prov. 16:24 – Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
• A wholesome tongue speaks pleasant words…
• The wholesome tongue leaves a sweet taste in someone’s mouth… not bitter… or sour. Wholesome words are sweet as honey!
• Have you ever spoken to someone… or heard someone speak that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth… because they were unnecessarily harsh or abrasive? Have you found yourself cringing over their words?
• Those are not pleasant words… nor is this a wholesome tongue… nor it is a wise man.
• Pleasant words are health to the bones… soundness deep down inside… strength… support… stability…

2. A tree of life… (It is best to let Solomon define how HE uses the term.)

a. Prov. 13:12 – Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
• A tree of life is the opposite of being heart-sick… discouraged… defeated… disappointed… down… depressed… a sense of hopelessness… etc)
• A tree of life is hopeful; refreshing; encouragement; cheerfulness; a healthy heart.

b. Prov. 11:30 – The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life
• It is likened to good fruit…

c. Prov. 3:13-18 – Here, a tree of life is likened to the fruit of wisdom: peace, happiness, prosperity, honor, pleasantness…

d. A tree of life is mentioned in Gen. 2:9 – in the Garden of Eden… in paradise before the fall.

e. Rev. 22:2 – John tells us that in heaven there will be trees of life for the healing of the nations.
• Not that folks in heaven will be sick; rather, the leaves promote health…
• Healing = Therapeian – health giving; health promoting;
• The tree of life promotes good health… that which is wholesome… sound… healthy… it contributes to the well being of folks…
• Solomon uses the literal effects of the tree of life to figuratively describe the effects of our speech.
• A wholesome tongue is a tree of life.
• Our speech should be wholesome: and like a tree of life, it should promote spiritual health and vitality among the saints.
• Matthew Henry wrote: He that knows how to discourse will make the place he lives in a paradise.”

3. Our speech should be healing… and spiritually GOOD for the hearer.

a. We are not to use flattery dishonestly, but our speech is to be tempered with kindness… not cruelty.

b. Eph. 4:29 – our speech should minister GRACE to the hearer… something good… beneficial… helpful…
• Perhaps you have something TRUE to say about a person… but is it kind???
• That’s a mighty ugly hairstyle; that was a stupid thing to say; you have the worst solo voice I’ve ever heard; your family is a group of losers.
• It all may be true… but does it minister grace? Does it build up or tear down? Is it kind? Is it Christlike?
• Truth is important… but there are a lot of other virtues to consider when we open our mouths.
• When there is grace in the heart, there will be wholesomeness in the tongue.

4. The wholesome tongue is healing… promoting the spiritual life and health of the hearers.

4b But perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

1. Perverseness:

a. This term is only used 2 times in the Bible; both times in Proverbs; and both times translated perverseness in the King James Version.

b. Defined: crookedness, perverseness, crooked dealing; spoken words that are crooked and perverted from the truth and so false; duplicity, deceit.

c. This would include outright lies and deception. It would also include impure motives… hypocrisy…

2. Breach:

a. Defined: breaking, fracture, crushing, breach, crash, ruin, shattering.

b. The shattering or crushing of the human spirit is an awful thing.

c. Deceitful words are a breach of the spirit and are like a crushing wound…

d. They shatter a person’s joy… wound the spirit… knock the wind of out a person…

3. Breach in the spirit.

a. Prov. 15:13 – A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

b. Prov. 17:22 – A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

c. Prov. 18:14 – The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?

d. A crushed spirit wounds rather than heals; it saddens rather than cheers up; it dries the bones rather than rejuvenates; it becomes unbearable rather than sustaining…

4. This is all the result of speech that is not kind and gracious, but is rather perverse… crooked… twisted…

a. Prov. 6:19 – Sowing discord among the believers is perverse speech… it is almost always done under pretense… deception… perverse intent…
• Nobody ever sows discord and SAYS that they are sowing discord.
• That can wound the spirit… crush the spirit of a believer… or of a whole church!
• That can have a widespread, crushing effect.
• That can result in the sorrow of heart that leads to a broken spirit… discouragement…

b. Prov. 11:9 – An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour.
• A man whose speech is perverse (deceptive; not what he claims to be; hypocrite) DESTROYS… his neighbor.
• Words can and do destroy. They destroy lives; friendships; churches; families; marriages; relationships of all kinds.

c. Prov. 18:21 – Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
• Because of lies in court, many have been executed unjustly.
• Because of courageous truthful words in court, many who were slated for execution were spared.
• The tongue is powerful. It can heal and save life. It can wound, crush, and kill.
• Think of the POWER of the tongue of a mother or a father in the life of a young child.
• Some kids grow up in homes where they are constantly barraged with expressions like: “I hate you.” “Can’t you do anything right?” “You’re useless; you’ll never amount to anything.” “You worthless piece of trash!”
• That kind of language is powerful… powerfully destructive in a young life.
• It will CRUSH the spirit… wound a young life… cause a child to quit life on the inside… and develop a “what’s the use in trying” attitude…
• It’s bad enough when it happens in the world. Don’t ever let it happen in a Christian home!
• Dad—learn to control your anger. Your words are more powerful and destructive than you will ever imagine.
• No child… no spouse… no human being should have to put up with that kind of language.

5. Prov. 4:24 – Put away from thee a forward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.

a. If you have been using perverse or deceitful speech… put it away. Stop! Stop before you do any more damage! And yes we can stop!

b. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. If we yield to God we CAN have victory over our tongues… but it requires supernatural power.

c. Prov. 8:13 – as we learn of who God is… and we learn to FEAR Him… we will be putting away the froward mouth… perverse speech…