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We Need to Guard Our Speech
Proverbs 10:31 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
31 The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
but the perverse tongue will be cut off.
The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom: Here again, as was true in verses 11, 13, 18, 20, and 21, we have a part of the body (tongue, mouth, lips) being used with reference to speech. Words from the mouth of the righteous (good, honest, upright person) refer to speech, words, and thoughts, which can bring forth wisdom. To bring forth means to prosper, bear fruit, thrive, and fruitful plants, a figurative expression that implies vitality and life. The words or speech of the righteous can refresh, enliven, and inspire a person. They can also lead to eternal life. Wisdom here is referring to words of wisdom.
but the perverse tongue will be cut off: The perverse tongue is, of course, figurative, which refers to a deliberate and determined desire to speak in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, as the words are false, untrue, confounding, and twisting sound moral judgment, often in spite of the consequences. We are not to take the tongue being cut off here literally. It is being used metaphorically. There is no such punishment in the Old Testament. Instead, the one bearing a false witness against another was to be punished with whatever the wicked one had intended for him. (Deut. 19:15-21) The metaphor of the tongue being cut off is a figure of speech that either refers to the community rejecting the one with the perverse tongue or to divine punishment that will eventually be meted out to him. It is similar to a tree that is full of life and its fruit brought forth by sap that provides life. Thus, the perverse tongue is like a tree producing rotten or worthless fruit. The owner of that tree would cut it down. In Israel, trees were taxed, so any useless tree was cut down and destroyed, making way for a productive tree. Those abusing God’s gift of speech will be cut off from life, making way for the righteous one who values that gift. For the godless one, there will only be his disgrace, and he will soon be remembered no more.
As servants of God, it is crucial that we guard our speech, as words have great power. Proverbs 15:4 says: “A healing tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Just as water will heal a thirsting tree, so it is true of the soothing, calm speech or words that can refresh the spirit of the person hearing them. On the other hand, the twisted words of a perverse tongue can crush the spirit of others. It is so true that our words have the power to heal or the power to injure. – Proverbs 18:21.