Wisdom

268 posts

Truthful Words: How to Avoid Gossip

Given that gossip is so destructive, and we are so readily inclined to participate in it, how can we put a stop to its pernicious power over us? Proverbs provides us with two helpful pieces of wisdom to help us quash the power of gossip. Watch What You Say “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down” (Proverbs 26:20). The first way to avoid the destructive effects of gossip is to watch what you say. Like a fire among dry kindling, gossip has a voracious appetite. But if we refuse to pass on gossip, we effectively stop its advance, for gossip can only destroy if it is continually fueled. We must refuse to be the next […]

Truthful Words: Why Do We Gossip?

If gossip is so destructive, why do we do it? I think there are two reasons. First, gossip is so common in this fallen world that we can easily perceive it as a relatively minor offense in God’s eyes. We tend to see these speech sins as less serious than sins of physical action, like murder and adultery. But such a distinction is completely foreign to the Bible. Murder and adultery may be more dramatic than gossip and slander, but in terms of greater and lesser degrees of sinfulness, Scripture draws no lines. For example, in Romans 1:29–31, the apostle Paul includes gossip and slander in the list of the perversions describing those who have rejected God: They have become […]

Speak Truthful Words

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. (Proverbs 12:19) In addition to thoughtful and timely words, we are called to speak truthful words. Proverbs 12:19 uncovers the underlying difference between truthful and false speech. Truthful speech, because it is rooted in the very character of God himself, is eternal. Once spoken, it does not change or decrease in value. But lies change and fade quickly. Like all sin, they may appear true or profitable in the short run (thus their popularity), but that fantasy cannot endure for long. Compared to the eternal nature of truth, lies last only a moment. A wise person therefore seeks to speak only that which is true. When the book […]

Timely Words: Do I Have the Right to Speak?

From God’s perspective, we all have the right to address one another regarding sin and holiness. Here, however, I’m referring to that “right” (and using the term loosely) as it is perceived by the person being spoken to. Sometimes words of correction are untimely and ineffective simply because the recipient believes the giver has not earned the right to speak them. This takes discernment by the person who would do the speaking. Here are some factors to consider. A word of correction is more likely to be received if the recipient is spiritually mature. He or she will know that God wants us to correct one another graciously, and can speak correction through even a donkey when necessary (Numbers 22:28). […]

Timely Words: Is it Better to Remain Silent?

The book of Proverbs has a strong bias in favor of silence, or at least the very spare use of words by the wise. Consider, for example, Proverbs 17:27–28, “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” The second part of this proverb uses humor to reinforce the first part: fools who imitate the wise in their silence can often appear wise…at least for a while! Proverbs 10:19 emphasizes the linkages between silence, holiness, and wisdom. “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). Clearly, the […]

Speak Timely Words

A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word! (Proverbs 15:23) In this proverb, the emphasis is on words that are apt by virtue of their timeliness. To be wise, our words must not only be thoughtfully chosen, but well-timed. This is obviously not the timing of a comedian who knows exactly how long to hold a pause before delivering the punch line. This timing involves a natural and spiritual sensitivity to circumstances which God can help us develop. Timeliness is an area in which we should all be seeking to grow. While some words would of course be wrong on any occasion, the book of Ecclesiastes reminds us of the corresponding truth that […]

Speak Thoughtful Words

The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. (Proverbs 15:28) There is no rewind function on our words. We can never truly take back what we say, as much as we might wish to from time to time. How important, therefore, that we learn from the vivid imagery of this proverb. Do you want your speech to be thoughtful and measured, or will you allow it to be more like a gushing, uncontrolled torrent? Sometimes in everyday conversation we all speak without thinking—without weighing our words. By God’s grace, usually the impulsive speech of Christians isn’t full of wickedness and evil, but it can certainly be foolish, as the apostle Peter demonstrated […]

Apples of Gold, Settings of Silver

Unwise words are no rare event, being, unfortunately, very common among Christians. Surely James was correct when he wrote that “we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. . . . no human being can tame the tongue” (James 3:2, 8). If no one can completely avoid foolish words, then in one sense our speech is a lifelong exercise in damage control. Have you ever hurt someone with hasty, careless words? Ever spread a rumor that proved to be untrue? Ever joined in gossip? Ever watched your poor attempt at humor cause an offense? Have you slandered someone out of […]

Jesus and the Book of Proverbs

The book of Proverbs is one of the best known Old Testament books, both inside and outside Christianity, and a classic of literature in its own right. Christians who look to the crucified and risen Christ as the heart of our faith can be so centered on the twenty-seven New Testament books directly involving Jesus that we may come to see Proverbs and other Old Testament books as somewhat removed from the life and legacy of our Savior. But there are actually very close connections between Jesus and Proverbs. After all, Jesus himself declared that the entire Old Testament was written about him (Luke 24:44). We should come to every book of the Old Testament seeking to uncover the many […]

How to Read Proverbs Rightly

In a complicated world, so many aspects of life can be confusing or challenging that we may grasp at anything that looks like a simple explanation or solution to a problem. The Bible does bring stunning clarity to many of the most perplexing questions of life. But this does not mean we can read the Bible—or the book of Proverbs—casually. Proverbs is not a collection of simplistic formulas for guaranteed success. Nor is it intended as a means to back-test and explain difficulties or moral failures. Rather, Proverbs offers us future-oriented wisdom and guidance so we can make wise decisions and live in ways that please and exalt God. It takes both knowledge and, yes, a measure of wisdom to […]