The following notes are from the 2015 Vacation Bible School (VBS) Adult Bible Study on Proverbs.
Proverbs: Be wise – have a tongue that speaks in a God-honoring way!
18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Words are powerful. They can bring benefit or harm. In some circumstances, words can cause someone to live or die. Words can cause someone to advance in his career, to be protected from enemies, or to be defended when innocent. Words can cause someone’s reputation to be ruined. Words can cause someone to be falsely accused, turned over to enemies, imprisoned, or executed. Animals can’t communicate with words. The ability to use words is a great gift to human beings. God has given us the ability and the responsibility to be in control of our words. You may be in control of your words and feel you can say whatever you want to say, regardless of the truth; but know that one day you will be judged for how you use words! Don’t use them improperly! Use them responsibly and wisely; to help, and not harm; to tell the truth, and not add to the error; to enhance justice, not injustice; and to bring about life, not death.
10:11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. The righteous – those who are right with God, who are in a right relationship with God, and are committed to living the right way and doing the right things – will be able to say wise things to others that will help them live a better life in this world and enter into eternal life in the world to come. May the Lord help us to realize that our words can be used so powerfully for the good of others!
In contrast to the righteous and their good words are the words of the wicked – those who are still in rebellion against the Creator and who don’t live the way He wants them to. The things they say will often conceal their real agenda. Those who are planning to steal from you or take advantage of you or move you in a direction they don’t want you to know about need to conceal their intentions. Politicians will frequently conceal violence. They may have dark, evil agendas and are unwilling to let the public know what they are really planning. Religion can conceal violence. Islam uses words of peace to conceals its violence. Jihad, war, and killing are part of Islam’s core beliefs. From its beginning until now, Islam has a long history of violence, war, conquest, intimidation, and suppression. Islam has a history of making a treaty with a group of people and then breaking the treating and killing them and declaring this to be justified. Anyone who tells you that Islam is a religion of peace is concealing violence.
10:19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable; but he who restrains his lips is wise. Out of the mouth of human beings comes truth mixed with error, truth mixed with stupidity, and hurtful statements. It is hard not to make mistakes when you talk; and the more you talk, the more mistakes you will make. So talk less, and think about what you say before you say it. Is what you want to say true? Is it helpful? What are the consequences if you say this? Are you saying this at the right time, in the right way, to the right person? My grandmother used to tell me, “You have been born with two ears and one mouth. So listen twice as much as you speak.” Yeshua declared, Every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render judgment for it in the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36).
10:20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver; the heart of the wicked is worth little. The things that the righteous can say can be very valuable. Those who are righteous, who are in a right kind of relationship with God and committed to doing the right things, have the ability to communicate wisdom that is precious, valuable, and beneficial. They can communicate the truth that can set people free from the lies, confusion, and chaos that leads to death. They can give wisdom that can address many areas that will greatly benefit those around them. In contrast to the righteous and the benefits they are able to offer are the wicked. They are far from God and His wise principles and can offer little that benefits because, on the scales of real worth, they are worth very little. So make a decision to be righteous, and you will be able to speak into the lives of others in a way that will greatly benefit them.
I like that phrase – “choice silver.” Choice silver is silver that is refined and valuable. It is something that those who first read these words understood very well, but it is a concept that most Americans no longer understand; and here’s why: In nature, silver is very rare and, therefore, precious. Because it is rare, beautiful, easy to divide and transport, and lasts a long time, it formed the ideal money. People have tried to exchange goods and services using other things; but silver, along with gold, turned out to be the best form of money. In fact, the Biblical world for money is kesef – silver. Many nations have used silver as money. In 1964, we stopped using silver in our coins. In 1971 we stopped using gold as the basis of our money. As a result, the supply of money exploded; and everything costs more. The last several generations don’t have much contact with or experience with silver except for the silverware that grandmother may have had. Most Americans don’t appreciate silver. I recently saw a short video about a man offering people chocolate bars or a 10-ounce bar of silver. The silver is worth about $160, so the people could have bought 80 chocolate bars with it. The people in the video took the chocolate. Let me tell you more about silver. The Lord in His wisdom created silver and gold in approximately a 15-to-1 ratio. For much of recent history, a person could exchange 1 ounce of gold for about 15 ounces of silver. Right now the ratio is over 70 to 1. With 1 ounce of gold, you can buy 70 ounces of silver. That tells me that silver is tremendously undervalued. I expect the ratio to go back to 15 to 1 or lower. Choice silver is the best investment on the planet.
10:21 The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding. The righteous, those who are in a right relationship with Him and who are committed to living the right way and doing the right things, have wisdom and out of their understanding are able to say things that will nourish the minds and souls of others. They are able to speak the truth, give wise advice, help, encourage, guide, direct, teach, build up, and sustain others.
Fools, who ignore God’s wise principles, die for lack of understanding; and their lack of understanding is their fault. God has designed the world so that truth, wisdom, and knowledge are readily available. Truth is everywhere. The creation, from the greatest galaxies to the smallest subatomic particles, tells us about the reality, wisdom, and power of God! The history of Israel is the voice of God speaking to this world. The history of the Church is God telling us the truth. Hundreds of millions of Bibles, translated into hundreds of languages, have been printed and are available everywhere, including on-line. There are millions of wise religious books in print. The lips of the righteous are constantly feeding many. There are missionaries, evangelists, ordinary Christians and Messianic Jews, and churches and Messianic synagogues preaching the truth throughout the world. Our messages are on radio, TV, and the Internet. There is great religious music on the radio, and religious truth is expressed in music and the arts. Truth surrounds us. It is the responsibility of each individual to know God and God’s principles and God’s way of salvation. It is your responsibility to seek the truth and to gain wisdom and understanding. Ignorance is no excuse.
13:3 The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. How many times have you said something stupid, something hurtful, that you later regret? How many times have your words gotten you into trouble? The person who talks before he considers what he is going to say and the right circumstances in which to say it, who says whatever comes to his mind, will hurt himself. Be careful that your tongue does not cut your throat. The wise man controls what he says. The mature man thinks about what he is going to say, the best way to say it, and the right time to say it. Will he speak in person about this or maybe by phone, by letter, by email, or by texting?
14:23 In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Watch out for those who substitute words for actions. Talk is cheap. Don’t just talk – show others what you can do with actions. Stop bragging about your big plans. Complete them first, and then talk about them.
17:4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue. There is a connection between an evil doer and an evil listener. An person who is in rebellion against God and His principles is disposed to receive evil thoughts from others. The wicked find evil, sinful ideas appealing. They will listen to immoral politicians and corrupt preachers, watch vile movies and TV shows, and listen to degrading music. Don’t be like them. Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy (and there are things that are excellent and praiseworthy) – think about such things.
17:7 Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, much less are lying lips to a prince. A fool is not someone who is necessarily stupid. A fool can be intelligent, well educated, sophisticated, and cultured. A fool is someone who has idiotic ideas about God and God’s wise principles, the inspiration of the Bible, rights and wrongs, and morality. It’s dangerous when someone who is foolish uses excellent speeches and persuasive arguments to advance his cause. When a scientist gets on TV and starts talking about the glories of evolution, when a Supreme Court justice gives an eloquent argument how it is right to kill a child developing inside a woman or that homosexuality is a right, when a thought leader approves of what Bruce Jenner did to himself – when fools use reason and logic and persuasive arguments to advance a foolish agenda, it is a tragedy. God is completely truthful. He can’t lie. He hates lies, which are destructive and morally corrosive. It’s bad for any person to lie; and it’s even worse for a leader, who should be a man of truthfulness and integrity, to take advantage of the confidence that is put in him and lie. Liars should not be allowed to be in positions of authority. We must demand truthfulness from our leaders and only vote into office men and women of integrity.
17:9 He who conceals a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends. Telling another’s sins will separate friends. Friendship requires the ability to be discreet. Don’t choose for a friend someone who reveals your faults. The one who conceals a transgression, who knows how to be discreet, seeks love. This can also be applied to bringing up someone’s past sins that have been dealt with. Bringing up past sins has destroyed many relationships, including marriages. Maintain good relationships by forgiving and not bringing the matter up again and again.
17:19 He who loves transgression loves strife; he who raises his door seeks destruction. I interpret “he who raises his door” to mean opening your mouth – opening your mouth with proud, boastful, argumentative words. By conducting yourself in this way, you will create a lot of unnecessary problems for yourself.
17:20 He who has a crooked mind finds no good, and he who is perverted in his language falls into evil. The one who uses twisted and devious words and methods to attain his goals is headed for trouble. He is in danger of losing peace, his reputation, his friends and relationships, his job, and maybe his freedom. He definitely will alienate himself from a holy God.
17:27 He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. A wise and mature individual is able to control what he says. He thinks before he speaks. James wrote, For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. If we can control what we say, we can control our whole body. Our ability to control what we say indicates where we are spiritually. If a man is spiritually mature, he is able to control what he says. If he can’t control his tongue, he is not mature.
17:28 Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent. Many people think that the one who talks the most knows the most. Solomon would tell you that usually the opposite is true. A person who is always talking is often the one understands the least. A wise man will be a man of few words. He is not insecure and doesn’t have to impress others with his knowledge so that he will feel good about himself. He knows what he knows and does not need to prove his worth to others. An idiot may be perceived as being wise if he only has enough sense to say little. If he says little, people won’t understand how little he knows. One of my favorite movies is Being There. Peter Sellers plays a slow-witted, childlike gardener who becomes homeless when his employer dies. Although the gardener’s only knowledge of the world comes from watching television, his simple-minded pronouncements are perceived as profound insights; and he comes to the attention of the rich and powerful and is seriously considered as a Presidential candidate.
18:4 The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook. I love water. It is one of the most amazing substances that God in His wisdom created. Water supports life on Earth; and, yet, water is one of the greatest solvents. It can dissolve many things; and, yet, ironically, without water sea, plant, animal, and human life can’t exist. We need water to stay alive. We use it in cooking, in heating, putting out fires, and treating diseases. Water cleanses our homes, our utensils, our clothes, and our bodies. Water is used in hydrotherapy, in irrigation, and in photosynthesis. Water, when running downward, can create energy to light and heat our homes and to power machines. Water carries the world’s products in ships to the ends of the Earth. Water can be beautiful, peaceful, frightening, dangerous, deadly, delightful, and amazingly beneficial.
Words can be like water. In the first example – the words of a man’s mouth are deep waters – Solomon is letting us know that words can express profound things. Words can reveal what is going on deep within a human being. Human beings are like icebergs, which are also made out of water. Only 10 percent of the iceberg shows on the surface. The other 90 percent is under the water. People will hide their motivations and agendas from us. They will not always reveal what they really think or what they really want from us. But, if we pay attention to their words, we may be able to discern what is motivating them. We can figure out their agenda. Knowing that may save us from grief and disappointment. So pay attention to what people say – even the little things. In the second example – the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook – words are compared with a bubbling brook. Water from a bubbling is beautiful, refreshing, and life-giving. Look for people whose words are wise, who know the Three-in-One God, who know His Word, who know the world, and who understand human nature. They will enhance your life. And try to become that kind of wise, delightful life-giving person yourself.
18:7 A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The fool – the person who rejects or ignores wisdom – should learn to be quiet. Because he ignores wisdom, he will say foolish things that aren’t right, won’t work, and damage himself and others. His mouth will get him in trouble. So those who reject the Three-in-One God of Israel, who don’t believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God, who make fun of Biblical morality – my advice to you is save yourself trouble and embarrassment, and simply shut up!
18:8 The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body. Human beings are born with a desire to understand things about people and situations. In general, that desire to grow in knowledge is good. But not all information is necessary because it does not benefit. Information about an individual can be very interesting like a delicious bit of food. But because that information may be interesting yet damaging, it should not be received or passed along. There is private information that does not need to become public. There is information that will only damage and not help. There are stories that will unnecessarily add to the embarrassment of a person or harm his reputation. Don’t be the kind of person who passes along or receives information about others that is private, embarrassing, damaging, and is not necessary to be known.
18:20 With the fruit of a man’s mouth, his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips. Words can produce good things. They can create positive, beneficial results. The person who is wise and controls what he says and doesn’t say foolish, harmful things and learns how to limit himself to say smart and beneficial things, will be respected by friends, by family, and by employers; they will learn to trust him and give him more important responsibilities and opportunities than the one who doesn’t know how to speak wisely.
28:23 He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with the tongue. Human beings come into this fallen world ignorant, selfish, immature, and foolish and with areas in our character that need refining. Often we are in need of teaching and correction. Most people do not like having a confrontation with another person since confrontation may not be pleasant and it may damage the relationship. But since confronting and correcting someone in need of correction is beneficial, we are encouraged to overcome our reluctance to confront. We are encouraged to teach and correct those in need of correction. If the person who is being corrected is wise, although he may initially be upset by the confrontation, after he cools down and considers what has happened, he should appreciate the one who had the love and courage to confront him with the truth that will benefit him.
29:5 A man who flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his steps. Human beings tend to be insecure and self-centered. We like to hear nice things said about ourselves. But, if someone is saying too many nice things about us, something may not be right. The man who uses oily words may be getting ready to fry you! The man who spreads buttery words about you may be ready to eat you like bread and butter! Be aware of those who compliment you too much. They may want something from you or are planning something that will harm you and are in the process of disarming you.