The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Proverbs 10:11 (NIV)
A fountain of life – what a beautiful picture this evokes. ‘Fountain’ makes me think of a powerful flow of water that’s clean and refreshing: It gushes powerfully upwards, sprays out, sparkling in the sunshine, and cascades gently down through its surrounding misty atmosphere.
Originally, fountains were connected to springs or aqueducts, bringing water to communities for drinking and washing. Later they became more ornamental and were sometimes used as a display of grandeur.
Some notable fountains are the Jet d’Eau in Lake Geneva that shoots up 140 metres (460ft) in the air, about as high as a 40 storey building. The highest fountain in the world is King Fahd’s Fountain in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which surges up 260 metres (850ft), maybe 70 storeys high.
So, back to thinking of our mouths as fountains. It’s amazing how the words we speak influence the atmosphere around us. Words spoken in a spirit of love bring life and healing; encouraging words build up. On the other hand, words spoken out of a critical spirit can cut and wound. Sometimes we might speak out of a need to be right and win an argument instead of being generous and giving room to hear the Lord’s voice.
Quoting from James 3:9-10 (NIV)
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
In Matthew 12:34-35 Jesus teaches very strongly about the things we say:
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. (NKJV)
In Jewish tradition there’s a tale that goes like this:
Rabbi Telushkin recounts an old Hasidic story of a man who went about the town slandering the rabbi. One day, realising how harmful his comments had been, he went to the rabbi and asked for his forgiveness. The rabbi told him he would forgive him on one condition, that he went home, cut up a pillow, and scattered the feathers to the winds. The man did so, then returned to the rabbi. ‘Am I now forgiven?’ he asked. ‘One more thing,’ the rabbi said. ‘Now go and gather all the feathers.’ ‘But that’s impossible,’ the man said. ‘Precisely,’ the rabbi answered. ‘And although you sincerely regret the damage you have done me, it is as impossible to undo it as it is to recover all the feathers.’ 1
Negative, critical words bring condemnation, discouragement, confusion, blame and shame that will grind a person down. These words don’t express a godly, clean, pure character but reflect the nature of our adversary, the devil. As in the story above, someone’s reputation may be the casualty of thoughtless words that do not come from a heart of love.
Today’s text says that the words of the wicked conceal violence, or “are a cover for violence” (Complete Jewish Bible). Such words intend to deceive, they hide another agenda and don’t mean what is said. The spirit of the Enemy speaks lies to mislead and half-truths to misrepresent. These may not result in physical violence but certainly violate one’s soul and spirit, damaging relationships through betrayal of trust.
But the words of a righteous person cascade like pure water, falling gently upon the heart of the hearer, bringing life to fragile and weary lives.
What fills our heads will, in turn, fill our mouths and one can’t do better than to reflect upon Paul’s plea in Philippians 4:8
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. (The Message)
Father God, in You I find true life and goodness. Thank You that the words You speak enable me to flourish. Please fill me and renew me with Your Holy Spirit so that the words I speak are words from You and bring Your life.
1 Martin Gilbert, The Story of the Jewish People: Letters to Auntie Fori. [Letter No. 127]Electronic Edition © 2014 by Rosetta Books LLC