Proverbs 15 & 16 offered two themes that the Lord used to challenge, correct and encourage me. I hope that He will use them to do the same for you too!
The first one, which offered the most challenge was about the tongue. The words ‘lips’ or ‘mouth’ are also used. There are more than ten instances in these two chapters that the proverbial writer mentions the tongue. There are encouragements but also warnings.
Read through these encouragements slowly:
- A soft answer turns away wrath
- The tongue of the wise commends (is suitable for) knowledge
- A gentle tongue is a tree of life
- Lips of the wise spread knowledge
- Making of an apt (appropriate) answer is a joy to man
- A word in season is good
- Gracious words are pure
- Righteous lips are the delight of a king
- A king loves him who speaks what is right
- Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness
- Gracious words are like honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body
And now read the warnings:
- A harsh word stirs up anger
- The mouths of fools pour out folly
- Perverseness (or wickedness) in (the tongue) breaks spirit
- Mouths of fools feed on folly
- Mouth of the wicked pours out evil things
- A worthless man’s speech is like a scorching fire
- A whisperer separates close friends
Living amongst others, in families, with roommates, in the workplace, I think we all know which list we desire to be said of us and used for us. We long for the list offering the kinds of words that are gracious, at the right time, and bring life but we also long to receive them from one another as well.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”. This is the first verse of Chapter 15. That’s the one that immediately filled my heart with conviction. There’s no sense me hiding from the Lord all the ways I answer those closest to me with a harsh word even though I might be able to hide it from others, I can’t hide it from Him. I’m thankful that He’s quick to forgive as I acknowledge what my words and how I speak them cause destruction in my relationships. I’m thankful that He often speaks to me with a gentle voice, never has it been a word to destroy me, always to offer me the gift of Himself, with the hope of true Life that only He can offer. We, too, by His indwelling Spirit can speak then to others with this same gentle voice.
The second theme that the Lord used to challenge me was about the heart. We can see how the heart is directly related to the tongue when we read in Luke 6:45, from the Amplified: Jesus says “The [intrinsically] good man produces what is good and honourable and moral out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart; and the [intrinsically] evil man produces what is wicked and depraved out of the evil [in his heart]; for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart.”
This made me think, “how can I store up good treasure in my heart so that what comes out of my mouth is also good?” I believe this is what we can glean from Proverbs 16:20 “Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord”. We also know of Jesus’ teachings about not laying up treasures on earth, but treasures in heaven and knowing that where our treasure is there our heart is (Matt6:21). He also teaches to be mindful of what our eyes see because it is the lamp of the body and if the eye is healthy than the whole body is full of light and vice versa with darkness and evil. He also teaches that if the eye causes evil, to get rid of it! So we know that what goes in affects the heart and then the heart affects what comes out in our words and then our actions.
Other references of the heart in these chapters are actually evidence, or I could say actions from the heart, besides the mouth, of the condition of the heart. Verses like “a glad heart makes a cheerful face.” (15:13) Or “the cheerful of hearthas a continual feast.” (15:15) “The wise of heart is called discerning” (16:21) and “the heart of the righteous ponders how to answer” (15:28)
There’s consequence for those who are evil in heart, (16:5) “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” “but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed”. And many more references about the wicked which could come from the heart but these chapters don’t specifically say that.
The book of James seems to be the culmination of these two points as James writes to the Brethern about how God is concerned about the heart of man and if the heart is righteous there is great outpouring of His love to others through deed and action as a result of the Word of God treasured in one’s heart, being lived out through faith in the One and Only Jesus Christ. There are many warnings and instructions here on how to live a life of faith that is honouring to God.
It really boils down to wanting to store up all of God in our heart; His character, His Word, His ways, His thoughts, His love so that He springs out from our body through both word and deed. We know, that all of Him is already available to all of us, so let’s believe and walk in Him.
I also really liked this proverb in chapter 16 verse 13, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life”