Fear of God and Speech

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

“Come, my sons, listen to me; I will teach you what it is to fear the Lord. Who is the man who is eager for life, who desires years of good fortune? Guard your tongue from evil, your lips from deceitful speech” (Psalms 34:12-14)

King David says that fear of God demands a withdrawal from social concerns—speech—which is engaged only in the company of others. Speech is poorly used when used to vent emotions or to impress others. Or, one can act with perfection and not vent his emotions, but contain them. The truly perfected person in fact need not contain his speech, as his energies already flow towards God’s wisdom and not towards speech. He is unconcerned with social status gained through boastful talk (an imaginary status at that) or mundane speech. 

King David says that one who fears God must first, “Guard his tongue from evil”—he is unconcerned with social life, so his energies are not moving towards the use of his tongue. And “he guards his lips from deceit” as deceit is the act of catering to the self without concern for others. One deceives others—lips—to obtain his goals immorally. Such people care about their pride and success and not about God’s will, or his fellow.  

Fear of God means one must abandon the ego, and thus, means withdrawal from the tool that people use towards this selfish end: the tongue.