Speaking Life-Giving Words to One Another

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life…The lips of the righteous feed (shepherd) many…”
(Proverbs 10:11, 21, ESV)

At a board meeting several years ago, the chairman asked the board members what we had been reading. At the time, one of the brothers was reading Scottish Puritans: Select Biographies. He shared with us James Fraser’s twelve rules for ordering his conversations. In God’s providence, I was preaching through Proverbs at the time. In fact, that next Sunday, I was preaching on “Taming the Tongue.” The counsel was so helpful, I used it in applying the sermon to ourselves.

When we studied Mark 9:30-50, we learned that followers of Christ must identify with Jesus in his humiliation. That is, like Jesus, we must humble ourselves, putting others first and offering our lives as living sacrifices. One of the ways we can put others first is with our tongues. So, I thought I would reshare these rules for speaking life-giving words during this season when so much anger and bitterness seem to consume our public and personal speech.

Let me encourage us, then, in this way – before posting anything on social media, before sending an email, before responding to another brother or sister, before lashing out at a family member at home, before losing it with the person in line at the grocery store, think back to these twelve rules and choose to speak life-giving words. I’ve updated the language and added applicable Proverbs. You may find these twelve rules in the Memoirs of the Reverend James Fraser of Brea, Scotland 1798.

1st Rule: Speak nothing sinful: lying, cursing, scolding, backbiting, gossip, slander – anything that dishonors God or neighbor.
•13:3, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

2nd Rule: Speak no idle words: will what I speak profit or is it vain, empty?
•25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

3rd Rule: Speak not much.
•10:19, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”

•17:27-28, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. / Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

4th Rule: Speak soberly both as to matter and to manner: not loud, obnoxious.
•27:14, “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.”

5th Rule: Speak not rashly or hastily.
•29:20, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

6th Rule: Speak weightily, seriously
•26:18-19 | “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking.’”

7th Rule: Speak in Faith: do you know, believe what you’re saying?
•12:22 | “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who act faithfully are his delight.”

8th Rule: Speak Prayerfully: have you prayed about what you will say?
•15:29 | “The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”

9th Rule: Speak timely and purposefully
•15:23 | “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is.”
10th Rule: Speak in Fear – keep a bridle in your mouth
•8:13 | “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”

11th Rule: Do not let your neighbors’ faults be the subject of your talk, even if true.
•16:24 | “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

12th Rule: Speak not of yourself or your worth.
•16:18 | “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”


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