Ecclesiastes 5:3: For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words.
King Solomon of Israel penned these words in the tenth century B.C. The Bible tells us he was the wisest man that ever lived (1 Kings 4:30ff) and he wrote many wise sayings in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote about a life lived apart from God and argued that such a life was useless. In the fifth chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote of the futility of the self-seeking life. He encouraged his readers to pay more attention to their actions than their words.
In Ecclesiastes 5:3, Solomon stated that dreams often come because of the activities and anxieties of life. Peaceful sleep can be interrupted with dreams that come as a result of the stress of life. Solomon adds that just as too much activity hinders sleep, the fool is known because he uses too many words or talks too much. The fool misuses his tongue through over activity!
The tongue is a much needed part of our anatomy that can be used for teaching God’s Word, however it can be a detriment as well (James 3:1ff). What are some ways that the Bible says we can overuse our tongue?
Paul warned Timothy about widows, specifically in his church, who were gossips. 1 Timothy 5:13: “And besides they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.” The word here describes someone who is talking nonsense. Gossip is passing on information about the personal life of someone that may not be true. We misuse our tongues when we engage in passing along information about someone that may not be true. We are saying things that we should not.
Solomon gave an enumerated list in Proverbs 6 of seven things that God hates. The seventh item on the list is “one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:19). The Hebrew word for “discord” can also be translated “controversies, conflicts, strife”. The NIV translates it “dissension”. Our tongues can be misused to stir up controversy, strife, conflict and discord at home, work, church or a Bible study group. A great burden that I have as a pastor is people within the local congregation who are never at ease and must constantly “stir the pot”. It is a sin for you and me to use our tongues to generate controversy or to keep conflict aloft at all times.
3. Anger Driven Outrage
Paul said that one way we know we are living under the power of the flesh instead of walking in the Spirit is“outbursts of wrath” (Galatians 5:20). The ESV translates this phrase “fits of anger”, whereas the NIV translates it “fits of rage”. Is your anger accompanied by yelling, screaming and hurtful words? The tongue can be used as a pipeline for our anger. The tongue can spew forth a torrent of unkind words, pronouncements, threats and ungodly speech. This use of the tongue is not driven by the Spirit of God.
4. Foolish Talking
In Ephesians 5, Paul described what it meant to live in love toward one another. Part of this involves refraining from certain activity such as foolish talking. One Greek word describes this foolish talking and its root word comes from a Greek word meaning “dull, stupid”. It is the word from which we get “moron” in English. Some translations call it “silly talk”. This is stupid, moronic talk that refers to low obscenity that comes as a result of drunkenness. Our tongue is used for foolish talking when words of dirty worldliness come from our lips.
5. Coarse Jesting
In the same passage in Ephesians 5 Paul refers to coarse jesting. The ESV translates this Greek word “crude joking”. This refers to talk that takes something innocent and turns it into something obscene. It is sexual innuendo. American television culture contains a plethora of this type of talk. This type of suggestive talk should not be found in the vocabulary of anyone who is a disciple of Christ.
Is there any hope for someone who is seeking to overcome these and other misuses of the tongue? Absolutely! We should pray with the psalmist, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). We should seek to live full of the Spirit of God because He provides us with self-control (Galatians 5:23). This will assure that our tongues will be instruments used to spread the grace of God in a world that desperately needs the savor of godly speech (Colossians 4:6).