Proverbs 10:8, 10, 11, 14, 18-21, 31, 32
The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.
Man is a talking animal, we say. But if we are distinguished from the brute creation by the mere fact of speech, how truly are we divided from one another by the use we make of that human faculty! To what height of worthiness one man may rise, and what inestimable service he may render, but to what depth of wrong another man may fall, and what mischief he may work, by the use of his tongue!
I. THE SERVICE OF SPEECH. "By our words" we may do great things, as our Master has told us, and as his apostle reminds us (see Matthew 12:37; James 3:9).
1. We may give deep and pure gratification (ver. 32; and see Ecclesiastes 12:10). We may speak (or read) words which shall be
(1) charming, soothing, comforting, encouraging, even inspiring, in the ear of man; and also
(2) pleasing and satisfying to our Divine Master.
2. We may follow in the footsteps of the Divine. For "the mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom" (ver. 31). We may utter in the ears, and may thus convey to the minds and hearts of men, the truths which are nothing less than the wisdom of God. Thus we may be speaking to others the very thoughts and making known the will of God. We ourselves may be, on our scale and in our sphere, like the Lord whom we serve and follow, "the Wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24, 80).
3. We may enrich the life of our fellow men. "The tongue of the just is as choice silver" (ver. 20). And surely fine thoughts, brilliant images, sound principles, sustaining truths, elevating conceptions of God, charitable ideas of men, - these are more enlarging and enriching than many pounds of silver or many piles of gold.
4. We may nourish the soul. "The lips of the righteous feed many" (ver. 21). Their words are spiritual bread which "strengtheneth man's heart," and makes him able to watch, to work, to battle, to endure. They are the wine which gives new life when he is ready to perish (Proverbs 31:6), which restores him in the languor of doubt and difficulty, and fills his soul with hopefulness and energy.
5. We may thus contribute to the true and real life of men. Our mouth will be "a fountain of life" (ver. 11, Revised Version). Whithersoever the river of Divine wisdom, of Christian truth, runneth, there will be that spiritual upspringing which is the true life of man.
II. THE MISCHIEF OF ITS ABUSE. The abuse of the power of speech, the talking which is idle and vain, is a great and sore evil.
1. It brings the speaker into contempt; he is thought and spoken of as "a prating fool" (vers. 8, 10), and he comes under the contempt of the wise.
2. It involves men in sin. "In the multitude of words," etc. (ver. 19). The man that is ever speaking with little forethought is sure to violate truth and righteousness before many hours have passed.
3. It works mischief of many kinds (vers. 14 and 18). It is sure to end in slander, in the robbery of reputation. The mouth of the foolish is "a present destruction" (Revised Version). The habit of bad speech, especially if it be that of falsehood, or lewdness, or profanity, is a "present destruction,"
(1) in that it constitutes a real calamity; for in the sight of God there can be few things worse than such a pitiful abuse of the powers he has entrusted to us. It is also a "present destruction,"
(2) in that it leads with a fatal swiftness to the deterioration and corruption of those in whose hearing it is uttered. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.