Proverbs 18:21

The Power of the Tongue


1. This section in Prov. 18 deals primarily with the subject of speech and communication. (How practical!)

a. Vs. 17 – the folly of a person who hears one side of the story and makes up his mind…

b. Vs. 18 – contention between parties—verbal arguments

c. Vs. 19 – offending a brother—usually through speech

d. Vs. 20 – the satisfaction of good fruit coming out of one’s mouth.

e. Vs. 21 – the power of the tongue

2. Vs. 20 spoke of the pleasant reward from good speech.

a. Vs. 21 takes this same thought a level higher.

b. Not only can it produce good fruit worth eating, but it can promote LIFE itself.

c. And he takes it a level higher in the negative sense. The tongue also has the power of death.

21a Death and life are in the power of the tongue:

A. The Tongue Has the Power of Death

1. Power Defined:

a. Strength; hand; the force and ability sufficient to accomplish a task… as an extension of the hand.

b. Solomon is speaking about the strength or the ability of the tongue to accomplish a task—either good or evil.

c. His point is that the tongue is a powerful little instrument.

d. This is the same concept that James elaborates upon in James 3:3-5 – it is a little member, but boasts of great and powerful things!
• Like a horse’s bit; a ship’s rudder; or a little spark that ignites a huge fire…)
• Though small, the tongue is powerful because of what it can DO… what it can accomplish…

e. Words are exceedingly powerful.
• There is potential in the tongue for good or evil.
• The pen (which records words) is more powerful than the sword.

2. Death is in the power of the tongue.

a. A eyewitness in court can testify against a man and his speech can result in putting that man on death row… condemning him to death!

b. A military officer can give his soldiers an order that can result in the deaths of hundreds of people—even thousands!

c. A king can say, “Off with his head” and that man is as good as dead.

d. Also consider the big mouth—who is always shooting his mouth off. If he gets the wrong people mad at him, his big mouth could result in his own death!

3. Solomon mentions here extreme example of the evil caused by the tongue: death!

a. Of course our use of our tongues will not likely result in the literal death of another person.

b. BUT—even though our evil use of our tongue may not rise to that level, the point he makes has good application to us all.

c. The result of our speech may not lead to the death of another person, but it can lead to the harm another person.

d. The tongue can be powerful in an evil way…

e. The results could result in anything from an insult to death… and everything in between!

4. It is unlikely that the careless use of our tongues will result in someone’s death (or our own), but there are lots of other consequences short of death that we should be aware of!

a. Jas. 3:8 – the tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
• Sometimes the poison kills.
• On other occasions, it just makes you sick.
• But always, poison is harmful.

b. Prov. 12:18 – Our speech can be as sharp and painful as sword. It may not kill them, but it can inflict pain.
• This is figurative language, which speaks of the result of thoughtless speech: it hurts like being stabbed with a sword.
• The figure is one of a man taking a sword and stabbing someone…
• Paul used another figure of speech, which means something quite similar: “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” (Gal. 5:15)
• There is something about thoughtless language that is like being stabbed with a sword:
» It is painful…
→ Words can hurt more than a sword…
→ Words can paralyze another human being…

» It is a deep wound, not a superficial scratch…
→ Physical wounds heal over time. Usually there are stitches, some medication, pain relievers, or ointments that help the heal the wound.
→ But there are no pain relievers for the pain of thoughtless words.

» It takes a long time to heal… unlike the scratch…
» Once inflicted, it cannot be reversed…

c. Prov. 18:19 – Offending a brother.
• It may not kill the person, but it can kill a relationship…
• Our speech may not actually result in the death of another person… but we sure can inflict a lot of pain and suffering!
• Our tongues can be cruel, cutting, and hurtful.

B. The Tongue Has the Power of Life

1. Rom. 10:14, 15 – There is the power of eternal life in the tongue of the one who shares the gospel! Words result in life!

2. Prov. 20:21 – A good tongue can FEED many.

3. Since there is such potential for GOOD with the use of our tongues, we should be careful not only in WHAT we say, but we should be careful in the very words we choose… and how we speak.

a. This includes our tone of voice… body language while speaking… even the choice of words and expressions we use.

b. Different phrases and expressions may be used to describe the very same thing… but they can connote or imply something very different.
• I’m pro-life, but those on the other side of the issue refer to it as anti-choice. (same position—different overtones)!
• I’m also a dispensationalist. I like to think of dispensationalism as “rightly dividing the Word of God.” Our foes speak of it as “cutting up the Bible into little fragments pitting the Old Testament against the New Testament.”

c. Example: Suppose one of your employees made a big mistake and the department held a meeting to discuss the issue. You could open the meeting by saying, “We need to discuss the impact of Joe’s problem for the department,” or you could say, “Our department has a unique challenge that I’m sure we’ll be able to meet!”

d. The way we WORD things can make a huge difference…
• If we are careless we can hurt others… unintentionally.
• But if we are considerate, we can often accomplish the same thing, but do so graciously… and without offence… and we end up with loyal friends instead of enemies.

e. Our tongues can produce fruit—like a tree of life… health… vitality… strength… supporting and promoting life… good relationships…

f. Prov. 12:18 – The tongue of the wise is health. Seek to promote HEALTH through the use of your tongue.

21b And they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

A. They That Love It

1. The “it” refers back to the tongue—those who love the tongue… they love to USE it. And use it they do!

a. This is a way of referring to talkative people… people who love to talk… perhaps a little too much!

b. They love to talk… and their tongue never stops wagging.

c. Prov. 10:19 – This man loves to talk.

d. Ecc. 10:14 – A fool also is full of words. That’s a sign of folly.

e. Those who LOVE to use their tongues should beware… and take heed to Solomon’s warnings.

2. It is possible for evil men to speak right words with evil intent. The Lord knows our hearts.

3. It is also possible for good men to speak wrong words inadvertently.

a. The Lord knows their heart too.

b. We’ve all done it. Perhaps we have repeated something we thought was true, but come to find out, it never happened!

c. We pass on information that we received from somewhere else, assuming it was true, but it was not.

4. The man who LOVES good words with good intentions is rewarded.

a. This is what we saw last week in vs.20.

b. That man shall be filled and satisfied by means of the use of his tongue.

5. The man who LOVES evil words with evil intentions shall eat the evil fruit.

a. Psalm 52:4 – He loves devouring words.

b. Men end up eating that which they love.

B. They Shall Eat the Fruit Thereof

1. Prov. 18:6-7 – The fool eats the evil results of his unbridled tongue.

a. He is snared by his tongue, and it may result in strokes—a whipping!

2. Matt. 12:35-37 – Whatever we SAY we will have to give an account for one day… by our words we are either justified or condemned. That should give us cause to pause before we blab.

3. There are always consequences every time we open our mouths. Those consequences may be negligible, they may be extremely important… even to the point of life or death.

4. Jas. 1:19 – The fact that we will have to EAT the fruit of our lips… the consequences of our words… should motivate us to put James 1:19 into practice in our daily lives: slow to speak!

5. Don’t go overboard and say NOTHING ever for fear of sinning with your tongue!

a. Pray that the Lord would restrain us from every evil use of the tongue.

b. Pray that the Lord would sanctify our tongues for His service—for good… to praise Him and edify the brethren… and share the gospel.

c. Solomon’s point is that the tongue is powerful… for evil AND for good.

d. Let’s use it for good… for health… for life… eternal life!