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Guard Your Mouth
Proverbs 13:3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
3 He who guards his mouth preserves his soul;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
The gist of this proverb is that we need to be careful in what we say. Line one contrasts someone who can keep control over his mouth with someone who does not know how to control what he says in line two.
He who guards his mouth preserves his soul: The Hebrew word rendered mouth (פֶּה peh) refers to speaking, talking, communicating, and so the phrase guard his mouth has the sense of one who is very careful about what he says and takes his time, thinking, weighing his words, before saying anything. Preserves his soul (i.e., life) is to keep watch over, to protect his wellbeing from any kind of harm that would come from speaking thoughtlessly.
He who opens wide his lips comes to ruin: The Hebrew word rendered lips (שָׂפָה saphah) as in most cases refers to speech or talk and so the phrase opens wise his lips has the sense of one who is babbling here, who speaks thoughtlessly or unwisely, namely, the words of a foolish person, which is in stark contrast to the man who can guard his mouth. Comes to ruin is no small thing, for it is an irrecoverable state of devastation and destruction.
We can bring to ruin our reputation, cause hurt feelings, strain relations, and even cause ourselves physical harm by being thoughtless with our words and foolish with our speech. Most importantly, the one who opens wide his lips with loose speech, babbling thoughtlessly, can lose his divine approval from God, who holds us all accountable for what we say. (Deut. 23:23; Num. 30:6-8; Prov. 12:13; Matt. 12:36-37) Undoubtedly, we all want to preserve our soul, that is, our life, from any harm that might result from thoughtless speech.
There, if we are wise, we will take James’ counsel to heart, “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” It will enable us to use our words in such a way that they are acceptable to God and bring him joy. In this way, we are using our speech to the glory of our Creator. Additionally, guarding our mouths will help us to carry out the divine will, as expressed in Romans 14:19: “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”
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