When I preach and apply the truth of a Bible passage for my listeners, I often point out the impossible opposite application of the passage. For example, the Bible says: ″All have sinned″ (Romans 3:23); the antithesis would be: ″No one has sinned.″
In Proverbs 10, there are 32 proverbs covering different subjects, but their form is the same. Each proverb has two lines-a couplet in which the second line re-states the first, but in the opposite direction. This is a common form of Hebrew poetry called antithetical parallelism. Verse 1 is a good example. Note the opposites: the wise son brings joy, but the foolish son brings grief. The second line heightens the impact of the first by describing its devastating opposite.
The wide variety of topics involving wisdom can be seen in the diverse themes of this chapter. They include:
- ill-gotten treasure (v. 2)
- hunger (v. 3)
- laziness (vv. 4-5, 26)
- righteousness (vv. 6-7, 16, 24-25, 28, 30)
- the fear or way of the Lord (vv. 8, 17, 23, 27, 29)
- integrity (v. 9)
- integrity (v. 9)
While it would be futile to look for a common theme in this chapter, the tongue appears to receive special attention. Jesus described the tongue as an indicator of the whole state of a person’s inner life, for ″the mouth speaks what the heart is full of″ (Matthew 12:34). Proverbs 10 contrasts the words of the wise and foolish and notes how their fruit distinguishes them:
- The words of the wise refresh, encourage, and bring life, but the words of the fool discourage and destroy (v. 11).
- The words of the wise show discernment, but those of the fool are misguided and invite trouble and punishment (v. 13).
- The wise speak only when needed, preferring to store up their knowledge, but the fool comes to ruin because of his careless, ignorant talk (v. 14).
Our words not only reflect the state of our hearts, but also affect others profoundly, for good or ill. Little wonder that Proverbs 12:18 compares words to swords; in fact, while the latter affects the body only, the former can affect the spirit. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can do even more harm!
Listen to your own words. What do they tell you about your heart?
Reflect on Jesus’ wise use of His words. Pray that God will help you speak wisely today.