The Bible provides insight into judging someone’s character. Many of Solomon’s proverbs impart cautionary wisdom to help us recognize people who might wish to do us harm. If we want to understand and identify a scoundrel—a wicked person who goes around doing evil—then we need to heed Proverbs 6:12–15, which gives an excellent description. The passage begins with this interesting observation:
“A worthless person, a wicked man,
Walks with a perverse mouth” (Proverbs 6:12, NKJV).
The first mark of an ungodly person is a perverse mouth. The word translated as “perverse” in the original Hebrew means “distorted.” Perversion involves twisting or turning something toward a wrong or deceptive use. “A perverse mouth” is alternatively rendered as “crooked speech” (ESV), “a corrupt mouth” (NIV), and “speaking dishonestly” (CSB). “What are worthless and wicked people like? They are constant liars,” reads Proverbs 6:12 in the New Living Translation. A parallel verse warns, “Scoundrels create trouble; their words are a destructive blaze” (Proverbs 16:27, NLT). The wise person will be on guard for people whose mouths are full of deceptive words.
“Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips,” counsels Solomon (Proverbs 4:24). In Proverbs, “the mouth” reflects more than one’s speech; it reveals a person’s character as well: “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly” (Proverbs 15:2, ESV; see also Proverbs 15:28). A perverse mouth that twists the truth reflects falsehood and corruptness in one’s heart.
By his mouth, the wicked person reveals himself (Psalm 5:9; 36:1–3; 50:19; 59:12; Proverbs 18:6–7). Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34; see also Matthew 15:18–20). If we listen carefully, the words we hear will paint an accurate picture of a person’s heart: “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45, NLT).
We can also judge our own hearts by paying close attention to what we say. Are our words pleasing to God, or do we speak with a perverse mouth? The psalmist describes a blameless and righteous person as one “who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander . . . and casts no slur on others, . . . who keeps an oath even when it hurts” (Psalm 15:2–4; see also Revelation 14:5).
Learning to control our tongues is no small matter, contends James: “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless” (James 1:26). The apostle Paul urges, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). Solomon states, “The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, But the perverse tongue will be cut out” (Proverbs 10:31, NKJV).
Our words have incredible power, and believers should use theirs to speak life (Proverbs 18:21; see also Proverbs 10:11), grace (Colossians 4:6), and truth (Ephesians 4:15, 25). How do we rid ourselves of a perverse mouth? By seeking the Lord’s forgiveness (Psalm 51:1–2) and asking Him to cleanse our hearts and renew our spirits (Psalm 51:10) so that we might “delight in truth in the inward being” and “wisdom in the secret heart” (Psalm 51:6, ESV). Let this psalm of David be our daily prayer: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, NLT).