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  • Writer's pictureDale DuBose

Proverbs 9-10| Week 5: Your Lips Say it All

Author: Jody Green

Have you ever spoken words you immediately wished to retrieve? Recently, someone made a remark about a disabled person, followed by silent mortification when she recalled her listener was a bi-lateral amputee. We all have made verbal blunders, for no one can tame the tongue. The NT book of James, as well as Proverbs, makes this clear. However, with God’s transformative wisdom, “The lips of the righteous feed many.” (10:21)

When a person comes to Christ - passing from eternal death to eternal life through faith in Christ our Lord – this newly adopted, fully-forgiven child of God begins a life-long process of change. One might expect visible, external behaviors to come first. However, when Paul described this process to the Philippians, he stressed: “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (2:13) This may imply, God’s Spirit first initiates Christ-conformity at the heart level of a believer’s will, desires and motives.

How does this jive with Western Christianity’s expectations? Are we prone to seek behavioral change or join the divine initiative and

focus on peoples’ heart-issues? Additionally, how can we disciple others’ hearts? This week’s chapters in Proverbs (9 & 10) give us a key to “ministering grace” to others. “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” (10:11) Words of comfort, courage and hope you speak to the discouraged, disheartened or bereaved can bring life to them for, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” (18:21)

The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom … the tongue of the righteous is choice silver … The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable.” (10: 20, 28, 31)

As infants need nutrition and water to live and thrive – and must receive it from someone else - new, young and disheartened believers need spiritual food from wise words, acceptable speech and kind lips - more valuable than silver. Today’s NT “one another” ministry of comfort, encouragement and love (etc.) sheds light on this. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, shares his use of lips to establish, nurture and feed these believers;so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” (1 Thess. 2:14) The following passage provides some guidelines [numbers added] for “feeding” people in God-glorifying ways.

[1] For we never came with words of flattery … [2] nor with a pretext for greed … [3] Nor did we seek glory from people ... [4] but to please God who tests our hearts. … [5] we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children … For you know how, like a father with his children, [6] we exhorted each one of you [7] and encouraged you [8] and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thess. 2:4-12)

Wisdom, of course, is essential to feed others with words; discernment is required to know what is needed - encouragement, exhortation, comfort or care (etc.) - at any given time. Gentleness is mentioned in Proverbs and

in the NT as a trait of the fruit of the Spirit. No matter what form our message takes, we are to deliver it with “a spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1-2). The wisdom to know how, what and when to speak (or to keep silent) is a ‘God-thing,’ for “the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.” (16:1)

If you want your “lips to feed many” – to minister grace to sinners, compassion to sufferers, comfort to the bereaved, encouragement to the disheartened, and love to the rejected - pursue wisdom in the fear of the LORD, for “the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (9:10) To feed many, you must abide in Christ and His Word, maintain your “first love” for Jesus, and foster a lifestyle of life-long learning: Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” (9:9)

Returning to the Proverbial heartbeat of divine wisdom, these two chapters emphasize a litmus test of God’s wisdom – edification rather than information. Do your words feed others? Lips that edify (build up) others are wise. “The knowledge of the Holy One” (9:10) provides the insight to help others with your words. If you want to take a litmus test of how wise you are, consider how well your words feed others; your lips say it all.

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