The Tongue of the Wise

Belle Prater’s Boy is a children’s book with an adult message.

It’s the story of a poor Virginia coal miner’s son with crossed eyes and tattered clothes. By all outward appearances, he’s not to be taken seriously. But looks can be deceiving. Belle Prater’s boy has a clear mind and a keen wit. When one of the thugs at school made fun of his peculiar looks Belle’s boy replied, “When God was giving out looks I thought he said books and said, ‘Give me a funny one.’” That kind of gentle, intelligent, self-deprecating response unnerved his opponent. Belle Prater’s boy might look foolish, but he was no fool.

As I read my son’s book, I felt conviction at how thoughtless I can be with my words. How often do I speak first, think later? How many times do I react instead of reflect? I’m sorry to say that the answer to both of those is “way too often.” Maybe you’re like me.

We live in a world where push and shove are the rule of the day. That same combative and competitive spirit often comes tramping into church on backs of Christians who forget their calling to be different. One wag said that, in church, “Dog-eat-dog simply becomes sheep-eat-sheep.” Kindness is rare and remarkable virtue these days. This often shows up in the way we speak to each other.

Proverbs 16:23 says,

The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Proverbs 12:18 says,

There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.

And if that wasn’t enough, Proverbs 15:2 offers one more blast of conviction:

The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly.

Ouch! The sword of the spirit is starting to cut. Do you feel my pain? Then let’s make a pact. Right here and now. Raise your right hand and repeat with me:

“We purpose to filter our words through our minds. No more crass and unkind things will pass thoughtlessly over these lips. So help us God.”

We will certainly need His help to keep that commitment.

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