Summary: These proverbs lead us to reflect on the most powerful weapon in the world, more powerful than military weapons, than money, than any authority. It is the power of the tongue. Nothing has more power to do good or to do harm.
This morning our proverbs lead us to reflect on the most powerful weapon in the world, more powerful than military weapons, than money, than any authority. It is the power of the tongue. Nothing has more power to do good or to do harm.
20 Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good,
and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.
This proverb presents a recurring theme in Proverbs – a mark of a wise and godly person is being a good learner. Just in the chapter and a half that we have covered, there have been six proverbs that refer to this theme:
A fool despises his father’s instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is prudent (15:5).
A scoffer does not like to be reproved;
he will not go to the wise (15:12).
The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
but the mouths of fools feed on folly (15:14).
The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
will dwell among the wise (15:31).
Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence (15:32).
How much better to get wisdom than gold!
To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver (16:16).
The proverb that most closely parallels this proverb is 13:13: Whoever despises the word bring destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.
The principle is simple: the way to succeed in life is to be a good learner. The second half of the proverb clues us into what type of word is meant: blessed is he who trusts in the LORD. The wisdom/instruction/word of Proverbs is the “fear of the Lord” wisdom, that which comes from knowing God and how God would have us live. The one who gives attention to this kind of word, and who trusts this wisdom, will know the good life. The problem with the fool is that he doesn’t want to learn, nor does he want to trust the Lord.
Why? It may be that he fears what he will have to give up or take up. He is comfortable being lazy; he likes the sins that he indulges in. The wisdom of Proverbs and Scripture do not encourage such behavior. It may be that fears he will fail or will be let down. Maybe he doesn’t have the ability to stay on the straight path and trying to do would expose his weakness. Maybe it will turn out that God (whom he cannot see) doesn’t come through. He leaves his old life only to find the new has more troubles. That does happen. There is a lot of risk to walking along the path that the wisdom of God would have one to go. By definition, walking by faith is walking without clear sight. But this proverb teaches that the one who will walk by faith in the Lord will find what is truly good.
21 The wise of heart is called discerning,
and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
Here is our “sweet talker.” A wise person will be recognized for his wisdom, and, because he is wise, he will know how to speak in a persuasive manner. Our sweet talker is a wise guy.
Do you want to be regarded as a wise person? Do you want to be recognized for your insight? Do you want to be the person who, when you speak, people listen? There are two routes you can go.
The first route to take is to seek wisdom. Seek to understand right from wrong. Seek to understand God and his ways. Seek to understand the human heart. The more you understand, the wiser you will be, and the wiser you are the more respect you will gain. You will become one who is trusted, whose opinion is respected. This will happen because of what you know, but also because your wisdom guides how you speak. Proverbs speak of this.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly (15:1-2).
A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit (15:4).
The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools (15:7)
To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is! (15:23).
The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things (15:28).
A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, and wise man will appease it (16:14).
The wise person knows what to say and how to say it because he understands the human heart and how different persons respond to instruction. The wise person understands how God would have him speak, that it is important to God to build up others with the truth, not blow them away with it. The wise person gives attention to his tongue, knowing when to speak and when to keep silent.