The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.
Think before you speak. Do your words fit the situation? Will your speech help and please those listening? A godly man knows what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. He makes sure his words and speech are acceptable to others, and they love him for it.
But a wicked man does the opposite – he impulsively lets out of his mouth whatever is in his contrary and foolish mind. He does not care what others desire or need to hear. His words offend others, so they consider him rude and obnoxious, and they avoid him.
The way you talk declares your character. The way you talk determines how influential you will be. The way you talk indicates how many friends you have. The way you talk will be a chief matter of examination in the Day of Judgment (Matt 12:36; Eph 5:3-7).
Of course, everyone thinks his own speech is good and right (Pr 21:2). Human pride and inborn folly presume that others love the way you talk, and pride and folly are in great supply in every child of Adam. Only by the mercy of God, learning grace and wisdom, and strict rule of the tongue can men learn to speak in a way acceptable to others.
Speech is for the hearers – so it is their perception and opinion that counts, not yours. It is others that determine whether what you say is acceptable or not. It is your duty to learn what they expect, so you can speak acceptable words. If you think being conventional is weakness or sinful compromise, you are too foolish and selfish to learn wisdom. Paul made sure as far as he could to avoid offending any (I Cor 9:19-23; 10:32-33).
While you must please God with each word, He measures your speech by how it pleases others. Froward mouths hate this rule, for they want to be themselves without regard for others. They sense others avoid and resent them, so they excuse and justify themselves. But here is the true standard of righteousness: what do others think of the way you talk? If people generally avoid you, or you have few friends, you have not learned how to talk.
A word fitly spoken is a beautiful thing (Pr 25:11). The man who uses them well deserves to be kissed, for acceptable speech is that rare and pleasant (Pr 24:26). Good speech is wonderful (Pr 15:23,26; 16:13,24; 22:11; Eccl 12:10; Col 4:6). It should be a high goal of every reader to have acceptable speech – acceptable to both God and men (Luke 2:52).
Righteous men study to answer, but fools pour out the evil in their hearts and minds (Pr 15:28,2; 16:23; 13:16; 29:11). While studying to answer includes correct facts, necessary knowledge, and a wise response to the matter at hand, consider it well that studying also means to know your audience and what they consider acceptable (Ac 17:22-31; 23:6).
Your lips say what is already in your heart, according to Jesus (Luke 6:45). The heart of the righteous loves what is good and acceptable, so their choice of words is pleasing to God and men. But the heart of the wicked is depraved and selfish, so his speech is obnoxious and rude. Only by a change of heart will his speech improve. And only the Lord can change a heart by regeneration to deliver him from the power of the devil.
Christian charity, the love of others, does not behave unseemly, or rudely (I Cor 13:5). If you love others, you will modify your speech to please them. You will listen and observe what is acceptable and good, and you will learn to do it yourself. You will not continue on in habits and ways that offend people, for doing so is selfish and proud hatred, contrary to the inspired definition of love given by God in this chapter by Paul.
Speech is one of the ways Jesus glorified God His Father. He had the tongue of the learned, and He knew how to speak a word in season to the weary (Is 50:4). Though preaching hard doctrine, the common people heard Jesus gladly (Mark 12:37). In His hometown of Nazareth, His enemies marveled at His gracious speech (Luke 4:22). And officers sent to arrest Him had to report, “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46).
Speech is one of the ways you can glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, for pleasant words will be a beautiful testimony to His grace and glory (Col 4:6). Your difference from the world will be great, for they are guilty of filthiness, foolish talking, and jesting, which will soon bring God’s judgment on them (Eph 5:3-7). Let every reader learn to speak acceptably.