Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. (Romans 3:10)
Think about the way you talked today. How did you use your words? Were they used to build up or tear down? To give life or kill?
Paul writes that sinners (namely, everyone) use the tongue to hurt people. The tongue itself is not a moral object. It may be used for truth-speaking, encouraging, and gospel preaching. But it also may be used to deceive, slander, and discourage. Paul describes people’s lips as having “the venom of asps.” An asp is a venomous snake that lived in the Nile region during Paul’s day. In modern day, it is native to southwestern Europe. In antiquity, when a criminal was not thought to deserve a respectable execution, he would be injected with the asp’s venom, which is particularly potent.
Think about that for a second: our words can be used like snake venom in an execution.
Gossip. Slander. Biting sarcasm. Wrath. Clamor.
Friends. Neighbors. Parents. Siblings. Spouses. Co-workers. Strangers.
Whoever said, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me,” obviously never had an interpersonal relationship with anyone. Words do hurt and, according to Paul, they can kill. The venom of an asp will eventually kill someone physically and put them out of their misery. Words, on the other hand, are remembered in the heart and mind, and are carried emotionally and spiritually until death. Words can kill slowly and softly. Over and over and over again.
Paul Tripp has said, “You have never spoken a neutral word in your life.” We must ask ourselves: Do our words bring life or bring death? Do our words bring the infusion of gospel comfort, peace, encouragement, love, unity, and truth, or do they bring the hellish venom of hurt, discord, discouragement, bitterness, division, and falsehood?