Proverbs 10:17-32

Today’s reading is Proverbs 10:17-32.

One of the recurring theme’s in today’s reading is how a person speaks. Consider:

  • a fool conceals hatred with lies (v. 18a)
  • a fool spreads slander (v. 18b)
  • sin thrives in the presence of too many words (v. 19a)
  • a cautious (“prudent”) person knows when not to speak (v. 19b)
  • the words of a righteous person are very valuable (v. 20a)
  • the words of a righteous person strengthen many people (v. 21a)
  • the words of a righteous person are wise (v. 31a)
  • ungodly words will be silenced (v. 31b)
  • a righteous person knows how to use words to bring about a favorable result (v. 32a)
  • but the

Words can change the course of a person’s life. They can persuade someone not to do something sinful, dangerous, or deadly. They can provoke someone to do something sinful, dangerous, or deadly. The right words can encourage a hurting heart and the wrong words can discourage a hopeful soul. Words are how we came to know Jesus as our Lord but they can also entice someone away from God.

Verse 19 definitely cautions us not to talk too much but most of the instructions in this passage are not about talking too much. The lesson in this passage is that your walk with God will show itself in how you talk. If you speak truth in ways that build up and strengthen others, giving them insight into wisdom, then your words will have great value and God will use them in the lives of other people. That is a reflection of a growing walk with God. On the other hand, if your words cause others to be tempted, to be seduced into sin, are hurtful, and hateful, that shows that there are issues in your heart that need to be addressed.

Sinning in what we say is one of the easiest ways to sin that exists. James says we all stumble in many ways and only a perfect person never sins in what he says (James 3:2). But as your walk with God grows, your ability to speak in ways that glorify God should grow, too. If you feel convicted about the things you say, ask God to use his word to root out the sins that cause you to say sinful speech. Then replace those things with truth from your own reading of Scripture and the strengthening of small groups and the teaching of our church’s ministries. Someday may it be said of us that our words “ nourish many” (v. 21) are “the fruit of wisdom” (v. 31) and that they “know what finds favor.” Then God will be glorified by our words as they reflect his changes and growth in us.

Proverbs 10:1-16

Today read Proverbs 10:1-16.

The word “righteous” means “that which is right” or “one who is right.” Being “right” requires some kind of standard for measuring the “rightness” of something. In the Old Testament, the thing that is “right” is God’s law because it came from God himself who is always righteous. So, when the book Proverbs talks about “righteousness” or a “righteous” person, it is describing someone who acts as God would act, or as God expects us to act as defined by his laws.

Today’s reading from Proverbs 10 refers to righteousness directly in some way or other in verse 3, 6, 7, 11, and 16. Each of these verses praises the benefits of righteousness--the righteous won’t go hungry (v. 3), wear a crown of blessings (v. 7), have their names used as blessings (v. 7), speak words that are “a fountain of life” (v. 11), and earn life as their wages (v. 16a). Wisdom, then, calls a person to a righteous life. It points people to God’s character as revealed in his word and says, “Live this way and you will be blessed in so many ways in your life.”

Let’s drill down on verse 7, though, and think about what it is saying. The verse says, “The name of the righteous is used in blessings, but the name of the wicked will rot.” What comes to mind when I mention the names:

  • Bernie Madoff
  • O. J. Simpson

These are two high profile examples of people who made a name for themselves--Madoff in finance and Simpson in professional sports. Both of them were heroes to many for a long time in their lives. Before his “investment firm” was exposed as a Ponzi scheme, many people thought Madoff had made them wealthy or increased their wealth. Some of these people may have raised a toast to him or named their children after him in years past. But while they were praising his investment prowess, he was spending their money, not investing it. His wicked ways eventually caught up with him and his name is now synonymous with fraud, fulfilling this proverb, “the name of the wicked will rot.” Something similar could be said about O. J. Simpson, among guys who became interested in football or rooted for him or bought his jersey or made money in Buffalo because of his popularity.

In addition to these high profile people, there are millions of smaller examples of people who exploited others for their own selfish reasons. Though they may have once had a good reputation, their name is now rotting because of their wicked ways.

Those who lived a righteous life, however, are remembered fondly by spouses, by their children and grandchildren, by their business partners or co-workers, by civic leaders and neighbors. I see this whenever I attend a funeral for someone who lived a righteous life; people line up to say good things about that person because “the name of the righteous is used in blessings.”

In addition to the fact that we will answer to God for how we live on this earth, there is something to be said for considering your reputation when you make moral choices. Is this decision something you want to be said about you or is it something you would never want to be known? These questions can guide us toward wiser decisions in our lives.

Let me add, of course, that nobody is completely righteous--that’s a fundamental truth of scripture. God’s grace covers our sins and even those who have harmed their reputation can rebuild it with repentance and through sustained obedience. Don’t let this proverb cause you to feel guilty; let it warn you and motivate you to wise--righteous--in the decisions you make with your life going forward.