By Juan Sanchez
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
The lips of the righteous feed many,
but fools die for lack of sense.
Proverbs 10:11, 21
At a board meeting I was at some time ago, the chairman asked the board members what we had been reading. One of the brothers was reading Scottish Puritans: Select Biographies. He shared with us James Fraser’s 12 rules for ordering his conversations.
In God’s providence, I was preaching through Proverbs. And that next Sunday, I was actually preaching a sermon titled, “Taming the Tongue.” The counsel from Fraser’s book was so helpful, I used it to apply the sermon to ourselves.
Sadly, we live in a culture–and I’m talking about the Christian culture–where we need to remind ourselves of such heart-exposing, conscience-convicting, wisdom-providing counsel.
Let me encourage us then in this way: before we post anything on social media, before we send an email, before we respond to another brother or sister, let us review these 12 rules and choose to speak life-giving words. I’ve updated the language and added applicable Proverbs.
You may find these 12 rules in the Memoirs of the Reverend James Fraser of Brea, Scotland 1798.
1st Rule: Speak nothing sinful
This includes lying, cursing, scolding, backbiting, gossiping, slandering – anything that dishonors God or neighbor.
- 13:3, “The one who guards his mouth protects his life; the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin.”
2nd Rule: Speak no idle words
Will what I speak profit or is it vain and empty?
- 25:11, “A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples in silver settings.”
3rd Rule: Speak not much
- 10:19, “When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is prudent.”
- 17:27-28, “The one who has knowledge restrains his words, and one who keeps a cool head is a person of understanding. Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent—discerning, when he seals his lips.”
4th Rule: Speak soberly both as to matter and to manner
Don’t be loud and obnoxious.
- 27:14, “If one blesses his neighbor with a loud voice early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse to him.”
5th Rule: Speak not rashly or hastily
- 29:20, “Do you see someone who speaks too soon? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
6th Rule: Speak weightily, seriously
- 26:18-19, “Like a madman who throws flaming darts and deadly arrows, so is the person who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking!’”
7th Rule: Speak in Faith
Do you know and believe what you’re saying?
- 12:22, “Lying lips are detestable to the Lord, but faithful people are his delight.”
8th Rule: Speak Prayerfully
Have you prayed about what you’ll say?
- 15:29, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”
9th Rule: Speak timely and purposefully
- 15:23, “A person takes joy in giving an answer; and a timely word—how good that is!”
10th Rule: Speak in Fear
Keep a bridle in your mouth.
- 8:13, “To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate arrogant pride, evil conduct, and perverse speech.”
11th Rule: Do not let your neighbors’ faults be the subject of your talk, even if true
- 16:24, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb: sweet to the taste and health to the body.”
12th Rule: Speak not of yourself or your worth
- 16:18, “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.”