The proverbs of Solomon:
1 A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.
2 Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value,
but righteousness delivers from death.
3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry,
but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
4 Lazy hands make for poverty,
but diligent hands bring wealth.
5 He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.
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.
22 The blessing of the Lord brings wealth,
without painful toil for it.
23 A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes,
but a person of understanding delights in wisdom.
24 What the wicked dread will overtake them;
what the righteous desire will be granted.
25 When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone,
but the righteous stand firm forever.
26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so are sluggards to those who send them.
27 The fear of the Lord adds length to life,
but the years of the wicked are cut short.
28 The prospect of the righteous is joy,
but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.
29 The way of the Lord is a refuge for the blameless,
but it is the ruin of those who do evil.
30 The righteous will never be uprooted,
but the wicked will not remain in the land.
31 From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom,
but a perverse tongue will be silenced.
32 The lips of the righteous know what finds favor,
but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
What a joke.
Since the beginning, they have been the tools by which the Great Designer sculpted the Universe and the mechanism by which the deceiver divided creation from Creator. Throughout human history, words have cemented promises of peace and cast entire nations into conflict. It is our words that remain long after we are dust, echoing in the promise and pain we leave behind.
As our tenth set of Proverbs pivots away from the history of Wisdom herself, its focus settles securely on the personal responsibility we carry daily. After all, what use is it to gain wisdom but hide it from our actions?
Sixteen times in the NIV translation of Proverbs 10, the writer drives the point home, and he will continue to do so for the remainder of the book, explicitly stating in Proverbs 18:
“The Tongue has the power of life and death…”
Think back on your own life. Go as far back or as recently as you want. How many times has the impetus of either a personal celebration or disappointment been the words of another? How often was it something you chose to say that you wish you hadn’t? Examine the conflict in your family or at work. How did words play a part in defusing the situation or blowing it up to an unmanageable state?
The truth is found repeatedly in the text of Proverbs 10; you can bring honor or ruin to yourself and the people around you through your words.
Perhaps this feels too much, that if you have that kind of power in your mouth, there is far too great a responsibility on you—one you could never hold up. If that thought has occurred to you, you are both correct and fortunate, for there is good news. Look at how Proverbs 10 ends with a promise.
“From the mouth of righteous comes the fruit of wisdom…”
That word “comes,” נוּב can translate to “bringeth forth” – literally, “germinates” as like a plant. You have spent the last nine days asking God for the wisdom to live a life that honors Him, wisdom that He says He will freely give to you. You are investing in a God-fearing life, and that investment brings change to every part of your life, including your words. Thank God for His wisdom today, for His gift. Begin to be patient and particular with your language, inviting the Holy One into even the smallest of comments, and watch how you and the world around you begin to flourish with new life.
God, bless my words today. Help me build others up and not tear them down as I speak. You gave me great power, and I want to honor you with it. Thank You for Your Word that stands infallible. I pray that I would know Your Word, and that it would flow as I engage others. Thank You for the honor it is to be Your child. Amen.