6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous,
but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.[a]
7 The name of the righteous is used in blessings,[b]
but the name of the wicked will rot.
8 The wise in heart accept commands,
but a chattering fool comes to ruin.
9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
10 Whoever winks maliciously causes grief,
and a chattering fool comes to ruin.
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
12 Hatred stirs up conflict,
but love covers over all wrongs.
13 Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.
14 The wise store up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.
15 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city,
but poverty is the ruin of the poor.
16 The wages of the righteous is life,
but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.
17 Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.
18 Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips
and spreads slander is a fool.
19 Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
but the prudent hold their tongues.
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,
but the heart of the wicked is of little value.
21 The lips of the righteous nourish many,
but fools die for lack of sense.
When to Speak and When to Listen
I get a reputation sometimes for speaking too much. The verses above could be a warning to me. How much do you speak? What comes out of your mouth? Jesus suggested that you could tell the condition of a person’s heart by the condition of their speech. Out of the wellspring of the heart, the mouth speaks. Jesus was speaking in a wisdom tradition that comes from Jewish culture. The book of James in the New testament also focuses on speaking. How we speak can build up or ruin our families. In the context of marriage, words of affirmation and encouragement may become difficult to say, but they are essential to the health of the relationship. As verse 11 says above, the words of the righteous are a fountain of life. In business, words can make or break a deal. It is good to be knowledgable about one’s area of expertise – it is obviously foolish to try and fake competency when it is not there. In the context of the book of Proverbs, a fool will bluff their way to the top, but a wise person will seek to learn and take a humble route to success. So the wise person is seeking wiser people to listen to. They are not so concerned with their own chance to speak, they are looking to hear someone wiser speak so that they can learn. This is true in business, marriage, and raising children. We all need to find a godly speaker to listen to.
On the other side of the coin, if, before God, we do have a little more learning than someone else in an area, we should not let false humility keep our mouths shut. A person who has studied and understands a topic should, with a humble stance, share what they have learned with others.
- Which verses in the passage speak about speech?
- How are wealth, income and rewards related to speech?
- How are we to teach children about speaking?
- Have you intentionally been taught (or taught a child) how to have a conversation? What are good guidelines for conversation?
- As a fifth grade teacher I frequently found that children did not know how to have civil conversation in groups. Some teachers would resolve the problem by sitting them in rows and teaching them directly. Can you think of a better way?