A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.
A wholesome tongue is one whose speech is not corrupting nor irritating, but full of nourishment and helpfulness — sound and sweet and salutary. Such a tongue is a tree of life. Wise words proceed from it as naturally as the leaves grow upon the branches; beautiful and fitting words adorn it as the blossoms adorn the tree.
I. THE TAMED TONGUE IS TRAINED FOR SERVICE. All things that are tamed are tamed for the service of man, and the tongue follows this law. It is by speech that many of our best gains are made. A large part of the good which we receive comes to us in conversation. Opinions are formed in this way: knowledge is acquired, good impulses are received, we are stimulated and cheered by our conversation. The interchange of thought is most valuable to us. When our tongue is rightly trained it will be a most diligent purveyor of knowledge.
II. THE TONGUE WILL SERVE OUR OWN NEEDS IN QUITE ANOTHER WAY. The reaction upon our own minds of truth which we have expressed, of worthy purposes or sentiments which we have avowed, is most beneficent. We fix our thoughts by putting them into words and uttering them. The wise and temperate utterance of manly feeling reacts in the same way upon ourselves.
III. THE TONGUE IS ONE OF THE MOST EFFECTIVE AGENCIES IN COMMUNICATING TRUTH. The printed word now plays a great part in the education of mankind, but written instruction will never supersede oral instruction. The tongue will always have a function, and a large one, in the communication of truth. Shades of meaning can be conveyed by the lips which the types cannot suggest. We learn truth through conversation; we may teach it in the same way.
IV. THE MORAL INVIGORATION OF OTHERS MAY BE MOST EFFECTUALLY PROMOTED BY SANCTIFIED SPEECH. As a matter of fact, the greater part of the moral and religious influence that is exerted in the world passes from one soul to another in the form of familiar talk.
V. WE DO PEOPLE GOOD BY MAKING THEM HAPPY. And there lies in kind winning words a wonderful power of adding to the happiness of our fellow-men. There is no little pleasure in listening to beautiful words or graceful words — as those of artists in verse or prose. Oh, the power there is in kind words to soothe, to uplift, to cheer, to bless the souls of men!
VI. SANCTIFIED SPEECH HAS THE POWER TO CONQUER, TO QUELL, TO SUBDUE. The soft tongue breaketh the bone; the tamed tongue subdues the adversary.
VII. AND SANCTIFIED SPEECH FURNISHES AN OUTLET FOR THE THANKFULNESS OF THE HEART. To the praise of God all that is highest and noblest in man continually summons him. Reasons for thankfulness are not wanting now to any of us. If we are silent it is not because there is no call for praise.
(Washington Gladden, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.