Proverbs 10:19

ESV When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
NIV Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.
NASB When there are many words, wrongdoing is unavoidable, But one who restrains his lips is wise.
CSB When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is prudent.
NLT Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.
KJV In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.

What does Proverbs 10:19 mean?

According to Solomon, incessant talking leads to sin. This is not meant to be understood in a wooden, literal sense. Rather, the point is that a wise person knows when to stop talking. In fact, when in doubt, it's better not to speak than to say something one might regret later. Much advice is given in Scripture about the importance of controlling one's speech. This is not always easy. In English, in fact, a common reference to holding back one's words is "biting my tongue." The imagery is of keeping the tongue still and quiet, even if it requires some effort or pain.

The apostle James offers sound advice by exhorting, "Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger" (James 1:19). He portrays the tongue as a something tiny but powerful (James 3:5). He describes it further as "a fire, a world of unrighteousness" (James 3:6), untamable, and "a restless evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:8). It is wise, therefore, to restrain our lips. James derides the hypocritical use of the tongue. He writes: "With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so" (James 3:9–10).

Paul admonishes the Ephesian believers to avoid sinning with the tongue. He writes: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29).

It's convicting to remember that our words are not self-generating. As Christ said (Matthew 15:18–19), what a person says is ultimately generated from their own heart, mind, and spirit (Luke 6:45). Keeping evil words "to ourselves" is better than letting them loose, but such thoughts still reflect an inner spiritual concern (Proverbs 10:20).
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