Watch Your Words

Watch Your Words

Proverbs 16:20-33
Wisdom for Living Well – Class 7

The book of Proverbs is full of sayings about the tongue and our choice of words. This section is especially rich in proverbs on that subject.

The first step to good speech is good listening, especially to the words of the Lord (16:20).

For definition and discussion, here are some positive descriptive words and phrases from 16:21-24 (ESV and NIV) for those who are wise in speech:

  • Discerning
  • Sweetness of speech, pleasant
  • Persuasive, promotes instruction
  • Fountain of Life
  • Judicious, a mouth guided by wisdom
  • Gracious
  • Sweet to the soul
  • Health to the body, healing to the bones

Likewise, here are some negative, descriptive phrases from 16:27-30:

  • Scorching fire
  • Whisperer
  • Entices
  • Winks
  • Dishonest
  • Purses his lips

How do these words and phrases relate to wise or foolish conversation?
As occurs in Proverbs, there are some proverbs of note in this section that seem randomly placed. However, we might also note some connective tissue.Verse 25 connects to verse 20. We need to be listeners to the word of the Lord because we sometimes have the wrong idea about what is good and bad.

  • Verse 26 is not about speech, but it does in involve the mouth. Hunger can be a good thing, because it motivates us to work in order to put food in our mouths.
  • Verse 31 praises those who in experience and age have discerned and found the good.
  • Verse 32 speaks of being slow to anger. When angry we tend to mouth off. We yell and say destructive things. This proverb reminds us that strength is evident when we can control our behavior, especially the tongue. (See James 3:8).
  • Verse 33 – “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” This last verse of chapter 16 echoes and serves as a bookend with 16:1.

Given the “Watch Your Words” title for this section of Proverbs here is a suggestion for a study on speaking with wisdom. Begin with chapter 10 of Proverbs. Read each chapter to note the proverbs that concern our choice of words, tone, and the power of speech. You will find at least one verse, and frequently multiple verses in each chapter, offering guidance on how to watch our words.