Prov 15:2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
Prov 15:4 The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
Prov 15:7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.
Prov 15:18 A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.
Prov 15:23 A man finds joy in giving an apt reply — and how good is a timely word!
Prov 15:28 The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.
Prov 15:29 The Lord is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
There are two basic ways to read Proverbs: one is longitudinally, i.e. chapter by chapter. This is possible for Proverbs 1-9 because there is a central connected theme in each chapter. However, from Proverbs 10-29, each chapter contains a variety of unrelated topics. So, each proverb in the chapter can become a separate study. The best way to read Proverbs 10-29 is devotionally, seeking to know which proverb the Spirit is using to speak to us personally. So, from each chapter, there may be only one or two proverbs that are relevant to us.
The second way to read Proverbs 10-29 is to do a cross-sectional study of a specific topic. Today, I will do a cross-sectional study on the wise use of our tongue across 6 chapters (Proverbs 10-15). By looking at only proverbs that address this issue, I discover that the speech of the wise must be
- Careful (Prov 10:19; 15:28, "When words are many, sin is not absent,but he who holds his tongue is wise/The heart of the righteous weighs its answers): The wise learns to hold his tongue and speak less, because he knows that speaking too much can cause us to stumble and say the wrong things and sin against God.
- Positive (Prov 10:21; 12:14 The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment/From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things): The wise speaks only words that edify and build up, not tear down or condemn. In the family or workplace, the wise is careful not to presume that their position of authority gives them the license to use hurtful speech.
- Confidential (Prov 11:13 A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret): The wise can keep confidence when they hear something that is negative about someone else. They do not spread bad news, only good news.
- Healing (Prov 12:18-19 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever): The wise speaks words that heal not words that kill. Healing words are truthful words, not lying words. Spreading reckless words about others can destroy their reputation.
- Life-giving (Prov 13:14; 15:4 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death/The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life): The wise loves to teach from God's Word because it is a fountation of life, and turn sinners from death: "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63). New Testament ministers are purveyors of life, not death.
- Gentle (Prov 15:1,18 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger/a patient man calms a quarrel): The wise chooses to speak words that are gentle, not harsh. The fruit of the Spirit is patience and gentleness. Gentleness and patience are twin sisters. Only the patient is gentle and only the gentle can be patient.
- Knowledgeable (Prov 15:2,7 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge/The lips of the wise spread knowledge): The best type of knowledge is derived from Scripture because Scripture is based on revelation. However, God also speaks through His Creation and in History. So, we should read science and history to gain more knowledge about the ways of of God. There is no premium in ignorance in the days of expanding knowledge.
- Encouraging (Prov 15:23 A man finds joy in giving an apt reply — and how good is a timely word!) A timely word is a word spoken that brings hope and encouragement. Giving praise to God is great, but when it overflows to others around us, it becomes greater. No use praising God on Sundays and cursing people on Monday.
- Prayerful (Prov 15:29 The Lord is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous): The best use of the tongue by the wise is in prayer to God. When the wise prays, God moves in answer to his prayer and good things happen. The more we pray, the more we speak with wisdom and impart life.
So, may God help us speak like the wise, not like fools.
Father, teach us wisdom in the way we speak. Amen.