(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
It's been good to spend time in Proverbs; it’s been good to look at these themes; it's been good for my heart; it's been convicting and yet gloriously comforting, and I just want to encourage you again--don't hold these themes intellectually, stand before them as if they were a mirror. You don't have to be afraid of anything that the Proverbs will reveal because there's nothing that could be known, revealed about you that hasn't been covered by the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Stand before that mirror, unafraid; confess what you see.
Well, the next theme is love of neighbor. You just don't have to read long in the Proverbs to see that every Proverb is rooted in one of the two great commands. Let me say that again, every Proverb is rooted in the two great commands. If you took the two great commands as columns on a piece of paper, you could write every Proverb under one of those two columns. Proverbs is a practical application in every area of life of what it means to love God and love your neighbor.
In fact, you could argue if you just take the second great command, that Proverbs is a wonderful unpacking, a wonderful portrait of that command to love my neighbor. If you want to know in detail what it looks like to love your neighbor, run to Proverbs. You'll get all kinds of practical advice on what that looks like. So, Proverbs has much to say, at street level, what it means to love your neighbor.
And one of the things that’s interesting, one of the points of focus of neighbor love is the use of your tongue. It's your talk. In chapter 15, there's a long contrast between the good fruit of a gentle word and the negative fruit of a hard word.
Now, think about that. What Proverbs is saying is your ability to talk wasn't meant just to serve you, it was meant to serve your neighbor. You talk in an other-centered way, knowing that you have great power to influence a person by your words. Now, think about this, you can say something horribly mean and a person begins to cry; you haven’t hit them, you haven't touched them, but you have created something inside of them that actually creates a physiological response just by words!
You can sit next to a discouraged person and say loving, kind, encouraging words and literally lift a person's heart. So, the Proverbs says, “If you want to love your neighbor, watch what you say!” Use the power of the tongue to do good in the life of your neighbor; because if you're not committed to that, you will use your tongue in ways that end up harming your neighbor. You can't read the Proverbs without encountering the fact that love of neighbor is revealed in the things that you say, the way you use this powerful ability to talk.
But there's one other thing that Proverbs does, Proverbs 15:14 does this, it makes a connection between the heart and the mouth, and that immediately propels us to Luke 6, that says, Jesus speaking, He says, “It’s out of the heart that the mouth speaks.” My use of the tongue, whether selfish or loving, is not a mouth problem, it’s a heart problem. And that's why in James 3, we’re told that, “No one can tame the tongue because no one can tame the heart.”
Dare we run for God's grace and say, “Won't you make me a person who loves my neighbor by the use of my tongue?” What does that look like? Well, Ephesians 4:29 says this, “Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (ESV) May God give us grace to use our tongues as instruments of grace, instruments of love in the lives of others?