Friday, August 15, 2008

Proverbs 10: Oh Be Careful, Little Mouth, What You Say!



The first nine chapters of Proverbs delve into what is at the core of the wise person; now the book moves on to comment on the way the wise person is to live. The first part of the book made clear that a wise person is one who fears and trusts the LORD and has committed to following wisdom. Now the details are given. We are told how to please God in even the smallest pieces of life.

Proverbs 10 is almost entirely made up of a series of contrasting couplets. A statement is made on the first line; this is followed by a similarly structured, but contrasting statement.


This chapter (as does the remainder of the book of Proverbs) contains many short, pithy statements. As I’ve read through the chapter certain ones have hit me, and I assume it is that way for everyone.

There are couplets that deal with diligence and laziness, and some that point out truths about poverty and wealth.

I notice two general categories of proverbs: ones that deal with the difference in the choices of the righteous (godly and wise) and the wicked (ungodly and foolish) and proverbs that deal with the use of the tongue and what we say.

James 3: 2 says that “those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way.” The tongue is compared there to a rudder of a ship, something very small, yet controls the direction of the ship against prevailing winds. The tongue is also compared to a spark – the wind can lift that spark and whip it up and a whole forest is set on fire!

What does Proverbs 10 say about our words, our use of our tongues?

The more we say the more danger there is of speaking foolishly (10).

Words can either build up and refresh and sustain (like a well of life) or they can harm and hurt (11). If I am following God then my words will reflect that. Perhaps my words are a good weather vane for discovering just what’s going on in my heart.

A person of understanding will speak wisely (13) while the fool meets with animosity, probably largely due to what he says. A wise person seeks to learn, to store up knowledge – we need to keep our mouths shut to do that! The foolish talk so much that they don’t find out how near destruction they are (14).

Lying and slander and two of the worst forms of speech. They reveal a heart of hatred and foolishness (18) (Interesting that verse 18 is one of the exceptions to the contrasting statements. Its two lines continue the same thought rather than contrast.)

Look at verses 19 – 21! Again it seems that the more we talk the more we will sin with our words. It is wise to use restraint and watch our speech. And I love the comparisons there: “the tongue of the righteous is choice silver;… the lips of the righteous feed many.” Contrast that with fool, who generates little of value and who can’t even nourish themselves.

The chapter ends with the observation that the person who is righteous will speak wisdom; she knows the right thing to say at the right time. Those whose hearts are not seeking the Lord will seek to stir up trouble and end up bringing trouble on themselves.

I think verse 12 sums up the use of the tongue quite well: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.”


Spend some time meditating on this chapter. Think about what characterizes your speech. Do you stir up conflict with your words? Do you heal? Do you forgive? Our words are a good indicator of what’s going on in our hearts.


Father, help me to seek You. Help me to be a woman of understanding and fill my heart so that it overflows with words that heal rather than words that stir up conflict. Make me someone who listens and learns. Help me to know when to speak and when not to speak.
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