At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life:Proverbs 13:3
But he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.
The Scriptures have much to teach us on the subject of guarding our tongues, and this is one place where the instruction is quite pointed.
The imagery here is that of a person’s life as a walled city. The person who guards the gates, who has watchmen on the tower, who has sentries with spears at the entry way, is a person who keeps or guards his life. The idea is that if you keep the gates, you keep the city. By way of contrast, we find the talker. He opens his lips wide, as in, wide open, and the eventual result of this will be the destruction of his city.
For a time, it may not look like this. With the gates open wide, it can look like the city is open for business. A lot of profitable traffic going in and out. But other things can go in and out as well, and once again the lesson of history is learned the hard way. Short term gain is often long term loss.
The role of a sentry is to be suspicious. He asks questions, and sometimes the questions are awkward questions. He not only asks questions of those coming in, but also of those going out. A godly man monitors his words carefully. It may even have to take the form of a fake Buddha citation, “There are three keys to the words we say. Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?”
Never mind the Buddha. Is it accurate, as in, not a lie (Lev. 19:11; Col. 3:9)? Is it both gracious and salty (Col. 4:6)? Was it actually needed at this point (Prov. 25:11-12)?
James reminds us that our tongue can do a lot of damage.
“Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:5–8).
This proverb reminds us that the damage done does not exclude our own lives.