Christian Living,  Old Testament

Principles in Proverbs on Wise Communication

Communication is important. More importantly, how communication is done is important. Jesus himself said that “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt 12:34b). It is underappreciated in our culture that what we say—whether verbally, over text, or on social media—these acts of communication reveal our hearts. It is a good and important exercise to evaluate our own communication and see how we line up.

photo of communication between two children

The ancient world prized wisdom, specifically the discussion of how to act in daily life. Unsurprisingly then, Proverbs provides some of the most pithy and helpful statements on how a righteous man or woman engages in communication. In many cases, Proverbs will contrast the righteous and his communication style and the non-righteous. What follows are a few of the many principles derived from Proverbs on how the righteous communicate.

The Righteous Brings Benefit by His Communication

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence (Prov 10:11).

The lips of the righteous feed man,
But fools die for lack of understanding (Prov 10:21).

I have known some people who I literally cannot listen to enough. It seems that every time they speak, they are literally feeding me and providing me with something that will sustain me in life. That is the mark of righteous speech. The words of the righteous provide tremendous benefit to all those who will listen. As Proverbs makes clear elsewhere, this is largely due to the fact that the righteous individual is also wise—having a mastery on the issues of importance in life.

The Righteous is Valued because of Communication

The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver,
The heart of the wicked is worth little (Prov 10:20).

The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable,
But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted (Prov 10:32).

Righteous lips are the delight of kings, And he who speaks right is loved (Prov 16:13).

In line with the previous point, those who speak well and benefit others are prized because of their intrinsic value. This is no surprise. I think we all have certain people in our lives whom we value because of the wisdom and attractiveness with which they speak.

The Righteous Brings Wisdom and Insight through His Communication

The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom,
But the perverted tongue will be cut out (Prov 10:31).

The one who is righteous is also necessarily wise. Therefore, the speech of the righteous is imbued with wisdom, understanding how the world works and helping others see that through his or her speech. In contrast, there are also those who simply deserve to have their tongue cut out because they twist and deceive people—they hurt instead of help.

The Righteous Thinks before He Engages in Communication

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things (Prov 15:28).

Oh how much we need this listen more than ever. Our society prizes the quick and witty. The immediate response on Twitter is prioritized by our culture, but Proverbs highlights the prudent and thoughtful. There is a time for haste, but the wise man or woman knows that should be the exception and not the rule. Those who are righteous know time and thinking must precede helpful communication.

Photo by saeed karimi on Unsplash

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He is a husband, father, and sports enthusiast.