There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (12:18)
Sword thrusts. Ouch. Our words carry weight, so much weight that Solomon compares rash words to sword thrusts – violent, piercing, mutilating. This is not the only place in Proverbs where he discusses the weight of words (see 8:7, 10:18, 10:32, 13:3). Clearly, how we use them should be of significant consideration to us.
How have you been speaking about other people? Are your words harsh like sword thrusts, or are they healing? The Bible speaks so clearly about the power of words because the way that we speak is a reflection of our hearts. Jesus once said to the crowds,
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45, emphasis mine)
Where Do Rash Words Come From?
After speaking a rash word, I’ve often wondered, Where in the world did that come from? It is rarely the case that we set out with a brutal agenda, purposefully slandering another person, yet before we know it, we have spoken rashly about them…and we cannot take back our words.
The doctrine of sin helps us to make sense of our tendency towards speaking rashly of others. Even though the hearts of believers have been made new in Jesus Christ, lingering sin sways us to respond to conflict in the flesh, rather than by the Spirit. Indeed, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38).
The awareness of lingering sin should alert us to our sword-thrust tendency, especially during times of relational frustration, stress, or disagreement. Praise God we have the Bible, which explains to us the origin of our rash words! Because we can understand our hearts in the light of Scripture, we are better able to guard against rash words exiting our mouths and afflicting hurtful wounds upon other people.
Guarding Against Rash Words
When you’re tempted to speak about another person, ask yourself these questions to determine if your words are rash like sword thrusts or a source of healing:
- How would I feel if this person spoke similar words about me?
- Would I say these words to their face?
- Is what I’m about to say absolutely true, and if so, is it helpful?
- Am I hoping for the best in this person, or am I assuming the worst about them?
Rash words need to be guarded against, and considering the effects of our words before we speak them is one way we can accomplish this. We also have a Helper in the Holy Spirit, who lives in us and gives us the strength and self-control to walk, not in the flesh, but by his power (Romans 8). We can pray for his help in this regard. The Spirit works to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ, who is our hope for speaking healing words (2 Corinthians 3:18).
For the Son of God never spoke an unhelpful, murderous word in his human life. Christ is the Word made flesh, God’s perfect, pure, life-giving manifestation of himself. Jesus submitted to death on a cross, in order to atone for every harsh word we’ve ever spoken. He was thrust in his side with a sword as he hung there, our sins (rash words included) having nailed him to the tree.
Jesus Christ took the sword thrust and the fullness of God’s wrath for our harsh words, bringing us life and salvation in his name. Now we have the opportunity to bear his image in the way we speak about other people, with words of healing and hope.