“The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.”
Proverbs 10:21 (NIV)
They can be as sharp as a dart or as tender as a teardrop. They can bring great sadness, incite intense anger, solicit a smile, or warm a heart. They are our words, and they can make all the difference in a person’s day, and ultimately in his or her life.
What do you talk about on any given day? What kinds of words do you use – are they positive and encouraging or are they negative and depressing? Are your words based on godly wisdom or do they reflect worldly knowledge?
Among the 32 verses in Proverbs 10, several refer to our speech and from these verses we gain good counsel on the difference between speaking what is foolish and speaking what is wise. Verse 21, in particular, tells us that godly speech nourishes others. Have you ever experienced a time when someone gave you godly wisdom or encouragement? Do you remember how you felt? I can think of many times in my life when I’ve been uplifted by a verse of Scripture that someone told me or had my heart warmed by their kind words. It’s true: the lips of the righteous do nourish others.
On the other hand, though, foolish words – those hasty, rash or unkind comments – bring destruction. Proverbs 10:8, 10, and 14 all declare that foolish words bring ruin. And Proverbs 10:6, 11 and 13 show us that foolish talk can end in violence and punishment. How often have we lost fellowship with a friend or family member because of the words we said?
If speaking wisely has not been easy for you, Proverbs 10 gives us some insight to what the “lips of the righteous” actually look like:
Wise speech is sometimes simply not speaking. Proverbs 10:19 says that many words are not always needed, and often “holding our tongue” is the wisest thing we can do. Listening can go a long way in a conversation.
Wise speech is speaking at the right time, understanding a situation or person and speaking what is best at that time (Proverbs 10:32). Proverbs 25:11 illustrates the beauty of aptly spoken words: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (ESV)
Wise speech is positive; it speaks life (Proverbs 10:11). Ephesians 4:29 reinforces this: “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.” (NIV)
Solomon encourages us to be wise in our speech – to be a good listener, to speak what is best for a situation, and to use kind words. When we do these things, we nourish others.