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Be Careful with Your Speech
Proverbs 15:4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
4 A healing tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
A healing tongue is a tree of life. The meaning of this expression, “a healing tongue,” is the same as Proverbs 15:1 “a gentle answer.” The sense here is gentleness, speaking in a mild, even-tempered manner with kind or comforting words. Maybe taken from the tree of life in Eden (Gen. 2:9; 3:22; cf Rev 2:7 and 22:2), the phrase tree of life occurs numerous additional times in the Scriptures, always in a figurative or symbolic sense. We see here in our verse under consideration that a healing tongue is a tree of life. The right words delivered in the right way (seasoned with salt, gentle, and respectful) will supply us with what we require to enjoy our present life and obtain eternal life. – John 3:16; 17:3).
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit. The Hebrew word rendered perverseness (סֶלֶף seleph) means to intentionally deviate from what is good. It is falsehood, deceit, i.e., spoken words that are crooked, twisted, and perverted from the truth and so false. Perverseness parallels and contrasts the gentle tongue. Thus, crooked, twisted, and perverted words will break the spirit. In other words, they will cause grief, anguish, hopelessness, and despondency and lead to disaster and, eventually, eternal destruction.
Solomon further emphasizes the value of a gentle tongue, saying: “A healing tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4) The phrase “tree of life” indicates healing and nourishing elements. (Rev. 22:2) A wise person with words seasoned with salt, gentle, respectful, will refresh the spirit of those hearing them. It draws out their good qualities. However, the opposite is true; crooked, twisted, and perverted words cause the hearers’ spirit to be trampled. It is becoming of Christians to get control over their thoughts, which leads to words, and, eventually, actions. They must not think or speak anything that will bring reproach on God or his people, so they need to have the greatest sense of appreciation, thoughtfulness, and reverence that in pondering on their words, no thought may be formed that is dishonorable to God.
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