The Good Fruit of Righteous Speech
“An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous escapes from trouble. From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him.”- Proverbs 12:13–14
Have you ever been slandered? If you have, then you know how painful it can be when others attack your character without cause, spread vicious rumors, or do whatever they can to tear you down even when your character has been above reproach. Even those of us who have never been subject to a fierce and unjustified verbal attack can imagine how difficult it would be to endure the damage lying lips can cause.
Those who engage in slander and gossip attempt to set a trap for others that will bring them down; however, these slanderers and gossips will eventually be captured themselves by their speech. Proverbs 12:13 reveals that those who transgress with their lips are finally brought low by what they have said, and the righteous people whom they have attacked will escape. There may be an allusion here to an ancient trap that consisted of two metal bars arranged such that one bar would fall and pin a person against the other bar. When set, this trap would look something like a mouth, hence the possible allusion. In any case, the point is that the jaws of evil people who try to consume God’s servants with their words will be the final victims of their own speech. An episode from the life of Daniel the prophet provides an illustration of this principle. When a group of envious royal advisers maliciously accused Daniel of wrongdoing and had him thrown in the lions’ den, Daniel was protected but the false accusers were consumed by the lions (Dan. 6).
In addition to escaping the trap of slanderous men, righteous men who bring blessing with their words are also satisfied with much good (Prov. 12:14). There is an allusion here to material prosperity, but the thought is fuller than physical satisfaction. The fruit in view also consists of a good reputation and spiritual blessing. Simply put, God honors those who are upright in their speech. By our words we will be justified—that is, revealed as the faithful people that we truly are—or condemned (Matt. 12:37).
What we say does not merit a righteous standing before the Lord, but whether we have a heart that trusts in Him alone is revealed in what we say to and about others. God may allow slanderers to go unpunished on this side of glory, but they are storing up wrath for themselves that will make their final judgment all the worse. On the other hand, if we are upright in our speech and seek to bless others with our words, then we reveal that we are in Christ, and we are laying up treasure in heaven.
If we will have to give an account for every careless word that we speak (Matt. 12:36), how much more will we have to answer for slanderous and evil speech? Knowing that our speech reveals our hearts should encourage us to be careful about what we say, especially when we are speaking of others. We do not want to set up a trap that will finally catch us, and we want to honor the Lord in all that we do. May we ever seek to speak in a way that honors God.
Passages for Further Study
1 Kings 2:13–25