The Lips And the Tongue
Dr. Joe Temple


Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Proverbs, that portion of the Word of God we have been studying together for some time. We are considering with you the personal proverbs of Solomon. You will notice the first statement of Proverbs, chapter 10, verse 1:

Proverbs 10:

1 The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.

We have put in the word personal because most of the Proverbs were written by Solomon, but this particular section has in it the personal proverbs of Solomon, and we like to make that distinction.

We have reminded you that the Proverbs are presented in a twofold fashion—comparison and contrast. In the first section of this portion, which begins with chapter 10 and concludes with chapter 22, verse 16, there are comparisons. The second portion presents contrasts.

We have said to you that the Proverbs within this section do not follow any sequence or chronological order, so we decided that the best way to study the proverbs in this section was to group together all of the proverbs which are related to one certain principle. We suggested to you that if you had time at one sitting to look at all of the proverbs which are related to the mouth, the lips, the tongue, and the heart, because they are all related, a careful student of the Word of God would notice their correlation in the Scriptures themselves.

Since we do not have time to look at such a subject at one sitting, in our last lesson we looked with you at what Solomon had to say about the mouth. We now want to look with you at the lips and the tongue. If you are familiar with the Proverbs which are related to this subject, you know that there are more proverbs dealing with the lips than there are with the tongue; but some of the things that we said about the lips are said about the tongue and visa versa. The two actually go together, and so what we are thinking about is what is related to the spoken word.

Value of the Tongue

You will notice the similarity in some of our comments to what we said in our last lesson for that very reason because there is a correlation between the mouth, the lips, the tongue, and the heart. When we think with you about the lips and the tongue, not always remembering to mention the particular organ which we have in mind, we recognize their relationship with each other.

Value of the Tongue

We call to your attention the value of the tongue. Immediately when we speak of the value of the tongue, we begin to think in terms of value. What kind of value do we have in mind? We are thinking about the value of the tongue as an instrument to be used for God and His glory. Turn, please, to Proverbs, chapter 10, verse 20, and notice the comparison that the wise man makes when he says:

Proverbs 10:

20 The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth.

There are two contrasts—the just and the wicked and the tongue and the heart. “The tongue of the just,” says Solomon, “is as choice silver.” If you are a believer, you have resident within you a very valuable organ that can be used for the glory of God; but the heart, from which the tongue actually finds its material to use, if it resides within a wicked person, is of very little worth.

Because the value of the tongue is emphasized in the manner in which it is, a paraphrased suggestion of this translation will portray to you the value that should be placed upon the tongue, for we read: “When a good man speaks, he is worth listening to, but the words of a fool are a dime a dozen.” That is bringing it up to date, but remember that the good man here is the believer, the one who is born again. The fool, as we have suggested to you, represents that man who is in open rebellion against God.

You recognize what you as a believer can do with your tongue. You've got something to say, though so few of us are saying it. But when you find a believer, you would do well to pay attention to what he says because if Spirit-directed, what he says is as choice silver; and the words of wicked men are a dime a dozen, which in our colloquialism indicates that they are worth nothing. You are wasting your time even listening to anything that is said along that particular line.

With that thought in mind, I would like to suggest to you some things that should be considered regarding the use of the tongue. In our last lesson, we pointed out to you that Solomon felt the same way James felt about the tongue. If a man learns to control his tongue, he can control his whole body. Here we are reminded that a man should very cautiously use his tongue and his lips.

Unavoidable Sin

How ready are you to speak? Do you open your mouth every time you have the opportunity? Do you use your tongue and your lips very cautiously, remembering that there are real dangers related to the unwise use of the tongue? We called to your attention one of them found in chapter 10, verse 19. We have labeled it unavoidable sin . In verse 19, we read:

Proverbs 10:

19 In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.

The suggestion is if you are going to be free to speak before you think, in all probability you will sin. Isn't it an interesting thing that many believers are not conscious that they are out of fellowship with God because they haven't done some terrible sin? They haven't killed anybody. They haven't gone out and gotten drunk. They haven't stolen somebody's wife, so they ride merrily along, assuming that they are in fellowship; but God said, “You may leave all of these things and many more to which I have referred undone and still be out of fellowship because you talk too much.”

If you are wondering why it is that the power of the Holy Spirit does not seem evident in your life, it could be that you talk too much. Of course, we are not going to say that is the reason because we don't know. No other human knows, either; but if you want to really search your heart, you might ask God if one of the problems you have is the tongue that you do not know how to control.

Turn, please, to Proverbs, chapter 14, verse 23:

Proverbs 14:

23 In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury [poverty] .

In labor there is profit. You work, you get a fair return for your labor; but if you spend all of your time talking, poverty is the result, so I have suggested that we must be very cautious in the use of our tongues that we do not use them solely for idle talk. I have often wondered what some of us would think if our conversations were recorded without our knowledge and then played back to us.

Oh, I don't mean that we would be caught in dealing in some kind of obscenity that we wouldn't want repeated, but I wonder if sincere, thinking people wouldn't begin to wonder why they wasted so much time in idle chit chat as they did. I'm sure that's what Solomon had in mind because we pointed out to you that Proverbs is a practical book dealing primarily with life. I wonder if he didn't have in mind exactly that a man who spends all of his time talking never gets any work done and so he is going to wind up poor.

I would like to make another application and suggest to you that the believer who spends all of his time in idle talk is going to be poverty stricken spiritually. There ought to be a reason for what you say when you say it.

Notice Proverbs, chapter 17, verse 28, where we read more about foolish talk:

Proverbs 17:

28 Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

That is a tremendous truth. An unwise use of the lips can make you look like a fool. You may be a fool, and if you keep your mouth shut, nobody will ever find out. That is what Solomon is saying. He said, “As a matter of fact, they will even think you are wise. They won't know that you are too dumb to say anything. They will simply assume that you have so much to say that you are not going to idly speak.”

A Snare for Your Soul

The cautious use of the lips is essential for another very important reason. If you do not learn to use your lips cautiously, you will provide for yourself a snare for your soul. If you will notice in chapter 18, verse 7:

Proverbs 18:

7 A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.

The word soul here does not refer to your soul in the sense of what is going to happen to you eternally. It refers to your life. What the wise man is saying here is that we as believers can be caught in a snare of our own making because we unwisely use our lips. Some have had the experience of being caught in a snare, struggling to be loose from that snare and bearing the scars of the battle for most of their lives, if not all of it.

I ask you one question to provoke your thinking. How many of you have uttered words that you wish you could recall? You have uttered words that you wish you hadn't said. Oh, yes, you have gone to the person to whom you said them and you have apologized, but the words are still there. I suggest something that the Lord Jesus said to provoke your thinking. The need for the cautious use of the tongue is emphasized again when we are reminded that every idle word that a man utters shall be brought into judgment. Don't reject that just because you think you don't understand it. Just take warning and use your tongue cautiously.

Lying Lips

The truths about the lips and the tongue fall into categories, and we are going to look at them from that standpoint since we do not have time to look in detail to every single verse. The first category that is brought to our mind is related to lying lips, and it is a proper place to begin, I think. Look at chapter 12, verse 22, and we will find what God has to say about lying lips:

Proverbs 12:

22 Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.

Someone may say, “Wait a minute. We are all Christians here. You are not talking about us, are you?” Yes, I am, because God says in His Word to Christians, “Put away lying from among yourselves. Lie not to your neighbor.” The construction of the passages of Scripture to which I have made reference indicate that it is a practice which has been going on for a long time. “Stop lying, you Christians, for lying lips are an abomination to the Lord.”

The word abomination might better be explained by the word disgusting . It is truly disgusting for God to have to listen to the lies that His children tell. The lips of truth on the other hand are something to be desired. Notice verse 19 of chapter 12:

Proverbs 12:

19 The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.

Eternity is in view when men use the lips of truth, for when men speak the truth, they are speaking of eternal things.

As you think about the categories related to the lips and the tongue, ask yourself, “Do I have lying lips, or do I have the lips of truth?” In the medical and scientific world they have a phrase that I think could well be brought over into spiritual realms. They speak of people being pathological liars, who for all practical purposes were born liars. Well, that is true of every man, but they also include the thought that these individuals lie when it would be just as easy, and in many cases, easier to tell the truth. They lie so well that they don't even know they are lying. They have convinced themselves that what they are saying is the truth. How careful we need to be as believers, walking at the direction of the Holy Spirit, sensitive to Him, so that when a lie is told, the individual will immediately realize it.

In the days of the Acts of the Apostles, a transition period, when men lied, drastic things happened. I don't say that they happened every time, but the Holy Spirit was pleased to record one illustration of what happened. Ananias and Sapphira are familiar names to you if you have been to Sunday School. They lied. They lied to a man, but the man happened to be the representative of God. As far as God was concerned, they lied to the Holy Spirit, and God struck them dead.

God is not working that way in this age of grace, but I often wonder if we would not have a lot more funerals than we do if when men lied to the Holy Spirit, judgment fell so quickly.

Lips of Wisdom and Knowledge

There are lying lips. There are lips of truth. There are also lips of wisdom, and these lips are very interesting. More is said about lips of wisdom and knowledge in the book of Proverbs than any other kind of lips because they are the most desirable kind of lips to have. The value of them is presented to you in chapter 20, verse 15:

Proverbs 20:

15 There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.

There is gold and there are rubies, which were the important stone of that day; but the wise man is saying, “ I am going to tell you about something that is more precious than gold and is more precious than rubies. I am going to tell you about a jewel that is second to none, and that is lips of knowledge.” Not just lips, but lips of knowledge. Keep in mind that with few exceptions, when you find the word wisdom , when you find the word knowledge, you are talking about doctrine. You are talking about the teaching of the Word of God. You are talking about truth as it is related to God's holy Word.

As we think with you about the matter of wisdom, we have brought to our attention not only the value of such lips, but what I have referred to as discerning lips . Turn to chapter 10, verse 13, because lips of knowledge which are not discerning lips will not be as effective as they might otherwise be:

Proverbs 10:

13 In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.

We are interested now in the first part of the verse: “In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found.” “In the lips of him that hath discernment (that is a better word), the truth of God's word, doctrine, is found.” Of course, there is a reason for that. As you well know, spiritual things are spiritually discerned. An unsaved man could study the Bible as history and literature all of his life and be just as ignorant of the truth of God as somebody who never opened the pages of a Bible. If you are going to have the lips of knowledge, you are going to have discerning lips. But discernment is not enough. Some people have the idea that you don't have to do anything but expect God to give you something to say when you need to say it, like the proverbial preacher who said he never studied. He waited for the Lord to fill his mouth. The deacon who overheard the comment said, “Yes, and that is all we have been getting for the last year. Just hot air, for that is all God ever seems to fill his mouth with—hot air.”

Prepared Lips

There is a need for preparation. Chapter 16, verse 23 says:

Proverbs 16:

23 The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.

Notice that the man who is sincere in using the lips of wisdom and knowledge is going to having prepared lips in that his heart is going to teach his mouth and add learning to his lips.

I have had people say to me, “You know, the problem with Abilene Bible Church is all you do is teach the Bible, and people become so full of the Bible that they go to seed on the Word of God.” Well, what these people are assuming is something that isn't true. They assume that people who sit under the ministry of the Word at Abilene Bible Church are consistently taking in but never giving out. That may be true of some, but thank God it is not true of all. If it is true of you, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. If you cannot further the ministry that I labor, and I say without apology that I labor diligently to produce, if you cannot dispense the truth that you receive, then you are wasting my time and your time, too. I need to find somebody that can pass the Word along.

Dispensing Lips

You need, in addition to prepared lips, dispensing lips. Notice why I use that term, please, in Proverbs, chapter 15, verse 7:

Proverbs 15:

7 The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so.

The wise man here is the born-again man, and he disperses knowledge. Tomorrow you ought to find somebody that you can share something with that you received in the services today. You ought to dispense the truth.

You say, “Wait a minute. I don't have time to teach a Bible class.” I don't know where people got this idea that they have got to teach a Bible class. As a matter of fact, God says in His Word that you had better be careful accepting the responsibility of teaching a Bible class because you are assuming a tremendous responsibility when you do. There is no reason in the world why you, as an individual, cannot dispense the truth that you have learned. Notice verse 2, of chapter 15:

Proverbs 15:

2 The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.

It is not only important to possess dispensing lips, but it is important to dispense the knowledge right. You don't want to cast pearls before swine, and you don't want to give people more than they are able to absorb. The Holy Spirit can give you wisdom to know exactly how to dispense the truth that you have learned.

Persuasive Lips

Turn, please, to Proverbs, chapter 16, as I remind you that in addition to what I have already said, there is a need for persuasivelips on the part of believers, for you will notice in verse 21:

Proverbs 16:

21 The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning.

The reason that I have used the term sweetness is that the New American Standard suggests that this portion of the Word might be rendered “increases persuasiveness.” We might read:

Proverbs 16:

21 The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth [persuasiveness].

There is not much point in saying it if people don't take it. There is not much point in saying it if people don't receive it. You need persuasive lips, and one of the ways that you can have persuasive lips is to have sweetness about you, and that is what this verse of Scripture says. It is good to have sweet lips among boys and girls in certain areas and at certain times, I guess, but I would like to suggest to you who are believers to develop some sweetness of lips. It could be well used for the hearts of men could be persuaded to accept what we say if we learned to say it in a spirit of sweetness.

I am a fundamentalist, and I make no apologies for that. I read an interview the other day where a man was asked if he was a fundamentalist and if he was conservative. He said, “No, I am a new evangelical.” Well, I am not a new evangelical. I am a fundamentalist. Even though by and large the fundamentalists have the truth, some are not very well received. They have a habit of sometimes forgetting the sweetness of the Holy Spirit. They can speak with such unkindness of spirit that they are not very well received. We might ask God to help us to add a little honey to what we have to say.

The Lips and Tongue of Blessings

We are thinking about the category in which the lips and the tongue fall, and we call your attention now to another category which we have labeled the lips and tongue of blessings. God said that your lips can be used as a tremendous blessing for a great many different reasons. Notice chapter 10, verse 21, where it indicates one of the ways your lips can be used:

Proverbs 10:

21 The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.

“The lips of the righteous feed many…” Of course, we are speaking again of doctrine. We are speaking again of spiritual truths. How many people have you fed lately?

You might say, “I have a great big table at my home, and we have a lot of folk to dinner all the time.” Well, that is good. It is good to be friendly. It is good to have a gift of hospitality, but when they go to your house, do they go away talking about your steaks and your drinks or do they go away remembering a spiritual truth that you fed them while they were there?

It doesn't hurt to prepare the way with a good T-bone steak, but I hope you don't leave it there. I hope that you fed them with something else besides physical food. The health of people can depend upon the wise use of your lips because God can use your lips as a blessing in this fashion. Notice Proverbs, chapter 12, verse 18:

Proverbs 12:

18 There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.

That is a tremendous statement. Sometimes you use your tongue. Sometimes you use your lips, and you pierce like a sword. Sometimes you use your tongue and your lips to improve the health of the individual to whom you speak, for you do recognize, don't you, that physical incapacities are sometimes physical and sometimes psychological and sometimes emotional? The fact that they are psychological and emotional make them no less real. Sometimes there is a physical infirmity that can only be cured by the knife. Sometimes there is a psychological infirmity that can be cured by the lips of the wise as he permits his lips to be used for the health of others.

Notice what is recorded in Proverbs, chapter 15, verse 4. You might think at first thought that it is talking about the same thing. Notice:

Proverbs 15:

4 A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

Whenever you find the words a tree of life in the Scriptures, it never refers to physical life in the sense that we think of it. It refers to spiritual life. It refers to that eternal life that the new heaven and the new earth will experience in another day. But, you see, you may use your lips for the physical health of individuals; you may use your lips for the spiritual welfare of individuals. If you will look at chapter 18, verse 21, you will find that death and life are in the power of the tongue. When you realize that, you surely should realize what a tremendous force dwells within your mouth. Notice verse 21:

Proverbs 18:

21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

I wonder. The words you say, do they result in death or do they result in life? I would suggest a little inventory of your life when you have a bit of time. Ask yourself how you are measuring up in the use of your tongue.

Damaging Lips

The last category that I want to examine with you is one that I would just as soon not examine because it doesn't leave me particularly elated, but to do justice to the subject that we are considering, we are going to have to talk to you about damaging lips . Just as certainly as they can be used for blessing, they are used repeatedly for damage. Look at Proverbs, chapter 12, and notice verse 13, because some of the damage that is done is done to the individual himself, perhaps more than to any other person:

Proverbs 12:

13 The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips: but the just shall come out of trouble.

Wicked men, men who are not born again, are snared by the transgression of their lips. How quickly they weave a web, some from which they cannot possibly extricate themselves, and they do a great deal of damage.

A similar thought is suggested in Proverbs, chapter 17, verse 20, where we read:

Proverbs 17:

20 He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse tongue falleth into mischief.

A perverse tongue, as we have already pointed out to you, is a forked tongue, as the American Indian used to say. It is a tongue that won't speak straight, no matter what you do. An individual who has such a tongue within his head creates a great deal of mischief.

Some tongues create a burning fire. James had that idea. Perhaps he got it from reading Solomon's words about it. Remember that James said that the tongue was a little member, but he said, “Oh, how great a fire it kindleth.” Notice Proverbs, chapter 16, verse 27:

Proverbs 16:

27 An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire.

Notice the ungodly man digs the evil up, and in his lips there is a burning fire. How many lives have been destroyed by this burning fire, the fuel of which was found by what ungodly men have dug up?

A group of preachers were talking with one another and what they were saying was not very nice because it was about another servant of the Lord, and Dr. Ironside, who is now with the Lord, but was a mighty man of the Word while he was upon the earth, walked up to the group for a little fellowship. He didn't know what they were talking about, and there wasn't any way that he could stop what they were saying. He heard them all the way through. Then he said, “Brethren, will you tell me something? Are you saying this because you love this brother?” Then he turned around and walked off. Those men walked off in conviction because really they hated the man they were talking about. That is what this verse of Scripture is talking about. Lying lips cover hatred: “Oh, you know. I love him. I wouldn't dream of saying a thing like that to hurt him, but…”, then you turn in the knife and twist it.

What does God say here? “A lying lip covereth hatred.” That is a good way for it to cover it, you know. Individuals who cover hatred with lying lips also utter slander when they have the opportunity.

The Damage Lips Can Do

The last thing that I would like for you to notice is the damage that lips can do. Perhaps we are more guilty of this than anything else. Notice Proverbs, chapter 18, verse 6:

Proverbs 18:

6 A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.

Notice what it says. “A fool's lips enter into contention…” He uses his lips to stir up strife. I have suggested to you any number of times that you read your Bible with a sense of humor. I never read this particular verse without smiling because what Solomon is saying, if he were saying it in our language, is that this fool is asking for a belt in the mouth, and that is what he is going to get. You see, a fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes. He is asking for it. You enter into someone else's argument and add a little bit of fuel to the fire and you are liable to get poked. You may get some of your teeth knocked out, and you ought to.


Lips—God gave them and they can be wisely used, but the lips that God gave can be used to the detriment of a great many people. You might ask yourself, “How am I using my lips?” You might find time to get alone with the Lord and ask that God set a guard before your lips. “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, oh LORD, my God, my Redeemer.”

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