Words of Worth

Open Wide?

October 14, 2010

“The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his mouth comes to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3

Places that hold valuables must be guarded. For example, banks, museums and certain historical locations are all closely monitored to keep treasures in their proper location. Sometimes information is the thing to be carefully concealed and to retrieve it you must have a code or a password. It might even take going through security more than once.

An ancient Arab story illustrates our Proverb today with a vivid visual. The narrative begins with, “The words of the tongue should have three gatekeepers.”

What a great image. I immediately imagined three gates all in a row with very serious looking guards monitoring each one. The storyteller goes on:

“Before the words get past the lips the first gatekeeper asks, “Is this true?

A very good beginning and a question that begs yet another question. How much of what we carelessly say is true? Do we really stop (as if by a gatekeeper) and think about what we are saying? Is it true? Or is it something we heard someone else say? Or is it just someone’s opinion? Ok…get serious, is it a dressed up lie?

“If the words get past that gatekeeper, there is a second who asks, “Is it kind?”

A simple thought and yet it is so profound. Once I heard an old pastor say, “Be ye kind, one to another – once you get that command down, come back and I’ll give you the next one.” How many of us would make a second trip to this wise man? Think about the words you say…. Are they kind?

“And for those words that qualify for kind, the third gatekeeper asks the final question, “Is it necessary?”

Ouch. We may able to work our way around true and rationalize the term kind, but it is very difficult to make something necessary when it’s not. How many words would make their way past the gatekeepers if they were truly necessary?


The three gatekeepers for the mouth indicate the status of the heart. (Luke 6:45)
If we had these three gatekeepers, would we gossip? Would we complain? Would we quickly offer our thoughts without regard for someone else’s feelings? Perhaps we would be well served to appoint ourselves these gatekeepers.

By the way, is there ever a time to open our mouths wide? Yes there is. For the answer to that question, look up Psalm 81:8-16. (CT)

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