A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.
1. Not a silent tongue: mere abstinence from evil is not good. The beasts that perish speak no guile; what do ye more than they? The tongue of man is a talent.
2. Not a smooth tongue: it may be soft on the surface, while the poison of asps lies cherished underneath. "The mouth of a strange women is smoother than oil." A serpent licks his victim all over before he swallows it. Smoothness is not an equivalent for truth.
3. Not a voluble tongue: that active member may labour much to little purpose. It may revolve with the rapidity and steadiness of manufacturing machinery, throwing off from morning till night a continuous web of wordage, and yet not add one grain to the stock of human wisdom by the imposing bulk of its weightless product.
4. Not a sharp tongue: some instruments are made keen-edged for the purpose of wounding (Proverbs 12:18).
5. Not even a true tongue: truth is the foundation of all good in speech, but it is the foundation only. Truth is necessary, but not enough. The true tongue must also be wholesome. Before anything can be wholesome in its effects on others it must be whole in itself. The tongue must be itself in health before it can diffuse a healthful influence. But our tongue, as an instrument of moral agency, is diseased. It is in the human constitution the chief outgate from the heart, and the heart of the fallen is not in health.
(W. Arnot, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.