"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds the tongue is wise" (Proverbs 10:19); "The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil..." (James 3:6).
"Words are like leaves; And where they most abound, much fruit of sense beneath is seldom found" (Pope). One cannot talk about nothing forever, so the talk finally degenerates into small rap about people. Some wonderful advice comes to us from the ancient Orient. We should test our words to see if they can pass through three golden gates:
1) Is it true?;
2) Is it necessary?;
3) Is it kind?
Dr. James T. Jeremiah of Cedarville College in Ohio gives an apt description of the backbiter: "It has been suggested that biting is not always done with the teeth. The tongue feels soft compared to your teeth, but it is twice as sharp. A backbiter is not a person who bites back, but one who bites behind your back." Hannah More handled backbiters and talebearers by asking them to go with her to the person slandered to see if the story was really true. Cuts from a knife heal, but we have no guarantee that cuts from our tongue will heal.
Proverbs is full of admonitions about what we do with our tongue. I particularly like The Message Proverbs, by Eugene H. Peterson. Here are a few on the tongue from Chapter 10:
“The mouth of a good person is a deep, life-giving well, but the mouth of the wicked is a dark cave of abuse.”
“Hatred starts fights, but love pulls a quilt over the bickering.” What a lovely thought!
“The wise accumulate knowledge, a true treasure; know-it-alls talk too much, a sheer waste.”
“The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.”
“The talk of the good person is worth waiting for; the blabber of the wicked is worthless.”