She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26
The excellent wife is a doer, which we have seen throughout this entire portrait. But we learn in verse 26 that she is also a teacher - and one whose words are a blessing to all those who hear them. Let's take a look at the two pictures that are painted for us, describing this aspect of the excellent wife.
First we see that she speaks wisdom. The picture that is painted for us is a woman who when she sees the need of breaking silence with her mouth - speaks and wisdom pours from her. The phrase "opens her mouth," is a Hebraism meaning what is under her tongue or ready to proceed from her mouth. It has the idea that as soon as her mouth opens to speak - wisdom pours forth from it. The Jewish scholars believed that this woman's heart was so filled with this wisdom from God that the moment she opened her mouth it naturally flowed from it. This is the kind of woman yiou want to be around when she did speak. She was the female embodiment of E.F. Hutton - who when she speaks - you should listen!
The second thing we learn about her is that "the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." There are two ways of reading this - and honestly I think either is correct. The first way would be to say that she teaches of kindness to others. The word for kindness here is the Hebrew word "chesed." This word is the one that is closest to the New Testaement concept of agape love that we have in the Old Testament. The word meant both goodness and kindness - and referred to God's covenant love. She taught of God's great covenant love. She taught of a God who loved His people, showing them His kindness and His goodness to them. But the second way of seeing this is that she was loving as she taught. The reason I feel that either is applicable is that they compliment each other so well. One who teaches of God's love would, of course, be one who showed it as well even as she taught.
The excellent wife is not just a worker - but a lover - and one who loves as God Himself does. She speaks wisdom and teaches of love. These are two wonderful aspects of God that every family member and especially the children need to learn. That is why the excellent wife is so ready to speak of such things whenever she opens her mouth. She is a source of blessing therefore not only in all that she does for this family - but also in all she speaks and teaches as well.
Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Proverbs 29:20
There is a saying that is used to help people see that they need to think before they do something. That phrase is, "Look before you leap." After reading this proverb I think there should be a second phrase developed and used to help us keep from sticking our foot in our mouth - saying things that hurt others and damage our testimony. That phrase is, "Think before you speak!"
There is great wisdom in taking a moment to think about what you are going to say. It may slow you down in communicating, but in the end it will keep you from saying things that you will regret later. Proverbs 10:19 tells us, "When there are many words, trangression is unavoidable, but a wise man restrains his words." It won't hurt us to take a moment to think about what we are about to say - it will actually bless us - and keep us from sin. It might be helpful on a test to write down the first answer that comes to our mind - but it is usually not helpful to speak the first thing that comes into our heads. I know many times in my life that doing that would have seriously damaged relationships.
The wise thing to say is the thing we have contemplated or thought about. When we are hasty in our words we will be careless in them as well. That can lead to hurtful words being spoken. It is wise for us to remember that we are fallen, sinful men and women. It is also wise for us to remember that we can speak out of our flesh or out of God's Spirit. Let me quote Galatians 5 to give you an idea of what will come from each of these two sources.
The flesh will yield these things. "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." There is a list we want to avoid at all costs. These are the things that damage and possibly even nd relationships. Our mouths do not need to speak from the flesh. Here is why we do not want to be hasty in our words. Stop and consider the source - and if it resembles these kinds of words - don't say anything. This is even more important when we are angry or we feel hurt or misunderstood. Better to take our time communicating before we speak in these circumstances. It may even be wise to ask clarifying questions like, "What did you mean when you said this?" Often we receive slight where slight was not meant to be commuicated to us. Thinking before we speak will allow us to step back and clarify what we heard before we decide to respond to it.
Speaking out of the Spirit involves yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirit. It means stopping and listening to the counsel of the Spirit as He guides us through every situation we face. Here is what we can expect to come out of our mouths when we do this. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Two benefits from stopping and listening to the Holy Spirit will be first, the much better words that will come from us - words of love and the other wonderful characteristics that are mentiioned here. But a second benefit will also be the way our "passions and desires" will be crucified as we do not yield to the flesh, but walk in the Spirit.
I am what is called a "verbal processor," which means I do better when I can talk through things. That comes with some pretty dangerous territory, because if I do this with someone I can say some pretty stupid things before I reason through my feelings and my attitudes. That is why God has greatly encouraged me to verbally process with Him - and not so much with everyone else. David verbally processed with God often in the Psalms. It is why some of them seem to say pretty rough things at first - but end in praising God and David submitting himself to God. The Lord can handle this where humans cannot. So, if you need to talk - talk to God - about your difficult things - about everything. But be careful to "think before you speak" with men. Solomon tells us that if we don't do this - there is more hope for a fool than for us. That is a pretty tough thing to face - but then again - I've faced some pretty difficult things because I was too foolish to "think before I speak."
By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, And a soft tongue breaks the bone. Proverbs 25:15
Today's proverb has to do with the power of persuasion - especially when the one who is to be persuaded is someone in authority, like a ruler or a king. How is it that we persuade someone so high in office? The answer might shock you, because the Lord says that it is not the forceful man that will win the day. Patience and gentleness have much greater power to persuade than a blustery, arrogant person.
Forbearance is what is needed, according to our proverb. The Hebrew word here is "orek" and it means something long or lengthy. It describes physical measurements. The word used to describe the length of Noah's ark as well as to describe things like large land measurements. But what is measured as long in this passage is the patience and willingness to stick with one's cause before someone in authority. The idea is that a person forbears the fact that the ruler has a different opinion - and seeks to bring the powers of persuasion to bear on him over time. Most rulers are not given to quick swings in opinion - and when they do - it has the danger of not lasing long. The influence of the wise man is applied to a decision over a long period of time. That is one reason he is effective in getting the ruler to think and reason as he does. William Wilberforce spent his entire lifetime forbearing with those who differed with him on the issue of slavery. Yet he held to his views and continued to persuade men by holding them no matter what the outcome of votes within Parliment. In the end, his willingness to remain in the fight and stay there for years won the day for him and his cause.
There is a second tool that a wise man uses in persuading a ruler. We are instructed that a soft or gentle tongue can break a bone. What a powerful picture that is for us - and yet how contrary to the way that many of us are wired to think. It is not boisterousness and bravado that win the day with the ruler. It is the wise, soft spoken and gentle man who can eventually persuade the king on a matter. Consider Daniel for a moment on this matter. He was a very wise man who had tremendous influence on the king. Yet we do not have a single passage where Daniel speaks impassioned words to the king. Joseph was the same way. He was a man of controlled passions when it came to his dealings with Pharaoh. This kind of strength under control allies great power. The king and the Pharaoh came to have great confidence in these godly men. Their words - though gentle in their presentation - were powerful and could accomplish much.
Of those who led with forbearance and gentle words, Jesus stands more significant among all. He was patient with His disciples - and submitted Himself to God and even to others when He Himself had once sat at the right hand of God Himself. He spoke in ways that made men marvel - and commanded even the elements to submit to His will. When standing before a corrupt pseudo-court of man - Jesus was able to be quiet - even amazing His captors with His behavior. And when it came to raw displays of power - His simple words, "I am He," in the garden caused a wicked mob to stagger backwards and fall to the ground on their backs. Gentleness bearing great power - Jesus was the epitome of it in life.
Too many in our day think that to be influential you have to be a jerk. They see power as something wielded with an iron fist. You don't take anything from anybody - even someone in a position of authority. Such behavior may get you a temporary rung higher on the corporate ladder, but it will NOT bode well for you long into the future. The "gentle-tongued" man does not make the kind of enemies that the man with the macho attitude. He does not leave a trail of crushed egos and smashed careers along the way. The man who triumphs with power and a lack of gentleness will have many who will cheer for his fall. The gentle man learns to break a bone with the gentle and controlled way that he quietly and consistently speaks for his principles. Thus he comes to the point of persuasioin without all the baggage of his blustery counterparts.
Learn to influence others wisely. Learn to stand in positions of principle steadfastly. Learn to persuade others with soft, gentle, bone-crushing power. The power you access in the process will not be that of the fleshly elite of this world, whose kingdoms are passing away. The power you access will be that of the Son of God - Who remained silent as a lamb before His shearers - and yet who crushed death and hell under the weight of His godly obedience to His Father. There, dear saints, is power!
A false witness will perish, But the man who listens to the truth will speak forever. Proverbs 21:28
How long do your words last? There are many people who sat a whole lot - but whose words don't last very long. There are others who actually spend more time listening than they do speaking. It seems that they obtain wisdom much more often - and that their words are remembered far longer.
Here we have the false witness presented to us first. He is the man who speaks lies. He may not be lying on purpose though. He may just be listening to those who do not know the truth. He also may have bought into a system that is based upon false knowledge - or one that denies the veracity of Scripture. False witnesses tend to gather to themselves a number of people who will listen to their words. Scripture warns about a time when people will not tolerate sound words. They will instead gather to themselves teachers who will give them what their itching ears what to hear. They don't want the truth because the truth will cost them. Therefore they prefer those who will tell them what they want to hear. The problem though with such false witnesses is that they will perish - and those who listen and follow them will perish alongside them. Paul warned young Timothy to watch his life and his doctrine closely. He said to persevere in these things - because by doing so he would not only guarantee his own salvation - but also the salvation of those who listen to him as well. That is the saddest aspect of those who listen and gather false witnesses to themselves. They will wind up with the same sins, the same judgment, and in the same hell as their teachers.
There is a second man presented to us in today's proverb . . . a wise man. He is one who listens to the truth. It is interesting that while the false witness is all about speaking, the wise man is far more about listening. He listens to the truth. What is being said here is that he listens to the Word of God. James told those in his letter to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. He knew that a wise man becomes wise because he chooses to listen far more than he does speak. Therefore he knows the truth - and can speak it when it is needed. We see that in today's proverb. While the false witness perishs - the wise man who listens to the truth speaks forever. His words far outlast his days. How can a man speak this way - having his words last forever? It is not through the wisdom of this world and the scholars who love this world. It is by speaking the Word of God. This man's words last forever because they are God's Words. God's Word is eternal. We read in Psalm 119, "Forever O Lord, your word is established in heaven." We read again in Peter's first letter, "The grass dies, and the flower fades, but the Word of our Lord endures forever." Want to speak in a way that will last? Then speak according to God's Word - or even better - just speak the Word itself. That is the way to speak lasting words that will truly impact those who hear you - not just for a day or a week - or even a year. God's Word lasts forever!
He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles. Proverbs 21:23
All of us can identify with a situation where we said something that got us in trouble. We let a comment slip or we say something before seriously thinking about what we were about to say. Regardless of what was said - it ended in trouble - in someone's feelings being hurt. Extreme situations can land us in a doghouse that is very difficult to get out of . . . all because we were not cautious enough about the things that we said.
Today's proverb tells us to guard our mouth and our tongue. The word used for guard is a strong word meaning to set a watch guard or a military sentry over our mouth and our tongue. We are not just casually watching what we say - we are placing well-armed guards over our mouths to make sure that they do not run off on their own. Considering that Scripture tells us that the power of death and life are in our words - that James tells us that our words are like a fire and that they can be set our very lives on fire - it is a wise thing to put some guards there. After re-reading this last sentence I'd set some ninjas aided by a few Navy Seals there. I remember an old Last Days Newsletter written by Keith Green that had a picture of machine gun toting commandos peering over the molars in a person's mouth. That is the kind of watchfulness we need to have when it comes to our mouths and our tongues.
The one who does not guard his tongue and mouth will face troubles. Think about the last time your mouth got you in trouble. Imagine again the kind of difficulty it caused you emotionally. Try to remember how your soul ached as you realized you had once again inserted your foot in your mouth and swallowed it up to your kneecap. The wisdom of God warns that our soul will have troubles. That is our mind, will, and emotions - and most likely all three will face difficulties when we speak apart from God's wisdom. I've known of situations that lasted only a few hours - but others that are still going years and even decades later. A wise man learns from such things and holds his tongue. He is wise and shuts his mouth - contemplating the things he is about to say. To do otherwise is to court problems that can range from a few awkward moments to a life altering relational disaster.
He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip. Proverbs 20:19
Did you know that God views gossip and slander as pretty much the same thing? That probably does not sit all that well with some who engage in the sin of gossip - but really do not see themselves as slanderers. Yet from what we will learn in today's proverb, pretty much one is the same as the other. The first thing we learn from today's proverb is that a slanderer reveals secrets. Usually when someone tells you something in confidence they do not want their information spread around. They would prefer that you keep the information to yourself. But the slanderer takes this information that should remain secret and spreads it freely. Since the term "slanderer" is used, we can only assume that the way this information is used is to tear someone down. The "secret" information that they hold about someone else is used to destroy them in the eyes of others. Whether shared as a fact – or as often happens in Christian circles – a prayer request – it has effectively slandered the one who shared it in confidence.
This Proverb therefore says that it is very unwise to "associate with a gossip. When we learn that a particular person is not trustworthy with secrets, we need to steer clear of an association with them. They are a gossip. The problem often is that gossips often congregate – around each other’s gossip. Therefore the wise man realizes that in hearing gossip he should check his own heart to make sure he himself is not part of a gossip circle. Once he determines this – he then should limit any association with the person who shared their gossip with him.
Loose lips sink ships. This was a saying during the war that spoke of the danger of secrets being revealed. The danger was that a spy could gain information about one of our ships going to help in the fight with Germany. In the wrong hands this information could have proven to be deadly. Therefore one needed to be very careful how they spoke – and even more careful what they spoke to whom. Another saying is also appropriate here. Loose lips sink lives. Gossips are guilty of slander that often sets someone’s life on fire. Their careless words cause havoc to come upon others. The truly wise man – avoids such people
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21
What is the most powerful part of the human body? Contrary to what some may think, the tongue is considered the most powerful part of the human body according to what we see written in the Scriptures. Here we read that it has the power of death and life. Elsewhere we see that the words that come from it can injure like the thrusts of a sword. James has what is probably the most powerful commentary on the power of the tongue in chapter three of his letter.
"So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison." (James 3:5-8)
James warns us of the very powerful, and potentially very destructive power of the tongue. We can bless or curse with it. A carelessly spoken word like a carelessly thrown match can set an entire forest on fire. But the word can set a life - and indeed a whole group of lives on fire with gossip and slander. Therefore we would be very wise in being very careful with how we let our tongue's loose in the world. It would also be wise of us to heed the admonition given by Paul to the Ephesians when he said, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29)
Those who love this power of the tongue, are warned that they will eat of its fruit. Consider the man who destroys others with his words. He writes and speaks so as to destroy his political opponents - and loves the power that this brings to him. He does so until the day another more silver-tongued than him uses this same power to dismember him in the public eye. The power of the tongue is intoxicating - but it is also explosive and very dangerous if not used under the direction of Holy Spirit. But when used in this way - the tongue is not something whcih brings death - but rather a tool in God's hand to bring life and life abundantly!
The tongue is also the instrument in God's hands to bring the gospel to others. "How blessed are the feet of those who bring good news," is the delightful refrain for those who speak forth the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our tongues can share the gospel with others and be that aroma of life to life as they are born again by the power and mercies of God. We have the glorious opportunity to speak life every day! So, as we look at this proverb may we both fear and rejoice - may we be both overjoyed and cautious - may we both be silent and vociferous. May we see the destructive power of the tongue and shun it completely - and - may we see the life-giving power of the tongue and joyeously share the good news with total abandon.
He who restrains his words has knowledge, And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Proverbs 17:27
Talking when we should not say anything is something that can keep us from a world of trouble. Most of us, myself included, have a difficult time restraining our words. This is especially the case when we are being provoked or treated unjustly. Those are the times when we are tempted to speak - and to speak out of emotion and anything other than a
"cool spirit" as mentioned here. Wisdom tells us that it is better to use few words than many. Wisdom tells us to use no words at all when we are angry and bitter. Wisdom reminds us that such words are usually spoken out of our flesh rather than having the Holy Spirit empowered self-control that is needed.
We are told that a man of insight and discernment - a man who knows as he should and who understands things well - that man will hold back words. He will restrain himself from speaking and from saying what comes to his mind. He may want to say something, but wisdom tells him to keep his thoughts to Himself. The reason for this is found in the second half of today's proverb. He maintains a cool spirit. The word for "cool" here is the Hebrew word "qar" which means to be cool or even-tempered. The word refers to a cold refreshing drink of water - which was though to soothe the soul of the one who drank it. In the arid, hot middle east - such a drink would truly refresh the soul and cool the heat of the moment. The wise man maintains a cool spirit and does not allow provocation and rage to send him over the edge emotionally.
Such a man is one who has understanding. He understands that such outbursts do nothing to calm a situation. He understands that one act of anger and agression usually leads to another. Circumsntances like this can cause a man or woman to lose their temper and result in far worse damage and grief than just remaining quiet. Jesus was abused before the Roman rulers, the Jewish rulers, and the entire Sanhedrin - yet He held His tongue through it all. It is one of the most amazing displays of self-control ever known to mankind. The result of His self-control was the salvation of mankind. He said in the garden that God would make 12 legions of angels available to Him. But He never reacted - and maintained a cool spirit. He fulfilled God's purposes in the crucifixion, even though such purposes demanded several ridiculously illegal trials. He also fulfilled a prophecy that said he would be like a sheep silent before its shearers (Isaiah 53:7
Many in our day think a powerful man is one who demands his rights and does not take anything from anyone. It takes no real strength to be a fool after this order. This fits perfectly with the fall of man and the conduct that such men carry out daily. The powerful man is the one who can exercise great self-control in the face of problems and even terrible miscarriages of justice. Such self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit who works powerfully to grant a man such strength to keep his mouth shut. Such a man also shows by his silence the wisdom of his actions and heart - rather than the other man who speaks rashly and proves to all around him that he is nothing more than a fool.
A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23
Don't you love it when you say the right thing - in the right way - at just the right time? That is what our proverb is about today. It is about being wise enough to know when to speak - and not only that - but what to speak when you have the opportunity.
The beginning of this proverb starts with a Hebraism about the mouth. There is joy in having an answer of the mouth, which the way that this Hebraism would read. It has to do with the ability to speak well - or in this case to speak what helps others. When speaking of Moses' complaint to God about his inability to speak, this similar Hebraism is used. Moses complained to God that he had a "heavy mouth." This meant that he stuttered and stammered when he spoke. This speech problem made Moses think he could not be a spokesman for God. God gave him Aaron to speak for him, but we see plainly that Moses did not struggle to speak when the Spirit of God moved upon him to confront Pharaoh. The mouth of the man here in proverbs knows no such problem. He brings joy to others as they here the "answer of his mouth," which means the perfect thing to say in the moment. Whether this is a word of teaching, reproof, correction, or training in righteousness - the best word to speak is one that is in agreement with God's Word on the matter.
The prophet Nathan spoke the perfect word to David to bring him to repentance over his adultery and cover-up of his sin. Joshua spoke the perfect word to the people of Israel as they needed to decide whether they would serve the Lord. David spoke the perfect word to Goliath to remind him that God was going to give David victory because of Goliath's mocking of God. Daniel had the perfect words to speak to Nebuchadnezzar when he needed his dream interpretted. Jesus always had the perfect word to speak to detractors, to those who were hungry for his Word, and to those who came to Him needy and longing for God's grace and healing.
A timely word is delightful - both to the one who speaks it and to the one who receives it. There are so many who come to church hurting who need to hear such words. They long for a word of encouragement - for someone to lift them up. Others who are complacent and full of themselves need rebuke. Others still may need exhortation because they are timid about following the Lord radically. And a few who are long term church members, but who do not know Christ, need someone to love them by sharing the gospel with them so they can move from just being religious - to being Christians. No matter what the need, God will give us these "answers of the mouth." He will do so as we surrender to Him and desire far more to speak the truth in love - than just to engage in small talk.
A prudent man conceals knowledge, But the heart of fools proclaims folly. Proverbs 12:23
There are times when you know the right answer, but still it is better to just keep quiet. Just because you know something is not sufficient reason that you should share it. A wise man knows when to reveal his knowledge and when to conceal it as well. There are several proverbs where God deals with how freely we should speak - even speak the things of God.
Consider Daniel in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar. Here was a very wise man - a godly man - and yet a man who often held his tongue while in the court of the king. He could have been a spiritual know it all - and yet he was content to pray, to serve, and to wait for the moments that God gave him to speak. He got them either due to a biblical principle that was about to be violated - or due to a need that presented itself in the kingdom. Either way, he waited and walked with God until the moment he needed to speak. What is so glorious is that when he spoke - he was the spiritual E. F. Hutton to the kingdom - and to the king himself.
We can cheapen spiritual truth - and make it less effective in people's lives when we want to be the bible answer man for everyone around us. Spiritual babbling can actually hinder more than it can help. Another proverb states that a word spoke at the right time, in the right circumstances is like an apple of gold in a setting of silver. Take our Lord Jesus Christ for example. When the Pharisees came in John chapter 8 with the woman caught in adultery, He could have immediately spoken up with a scathing litany of words about their hypocrisy and condemning legalism. Instead He simply bent down and wrote in the sand. When it was time to speak He used an astounding economy of words. "He who is without sin, cast the first stone." Then he looked down again and continued writing in the sand. The area cleared - and Jesus once again used a question that was as simple as can be - where are your accusers? They had no answer - and He gave her the glorious truth that He did not condemn her - and that she should go her way and sin no more. That is one of the most powerful passages of Scripture we have - and yet Jesus chose not to speak a great deal in it.
The reason we should conceal knowledge is because any fool can speak. The second half of this proverb tells us that the heart of fools proclaim folly. Note that the fool's folly comes from his heart. He is filled with foolishness and self at the core of his heart. That is why when his mouth opens, foolishness comes out. Jesus told us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. My father used to say to me that I can keep my mouth shut and have people think I am wise, even if I am not. But when I open my mouth when I shouldn't, I remove all doubt that I am not wise. That is why we are told to measure our words carefully when we speak.
The wise man considers when he is about to say. He weighs his words to make sure that they have the greatest impact. He also weights whether his words would be better left UNSAID. That truly is wisdom. As a personal note . . . I am a "talker" - which means I like to talk when given the opportunity. I think this has become more of a habit as I grow older. But as I seriously think about what God has said, I will have to reconsider my ways - and adopt a lifestyle that speaks less. I will still talk - but at times I will need to weigh whether what I am going to say is of value or not. Then I will have to weigh whether the timing is good enough to say that what I want to say NEEDS to be said. Wisdom requires it - and therefore whatever discipline is necessary will be embraced. One thing I know - it will do far more to respond to God in all this - than to continue flapping my gums - and filling the world with words it does not need.