1 A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
3 The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
keeping watch on the evil and the good.
4 A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
5 A fool despises his father’s instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.
6 In the house of the righteous there is much treasure,
but trouble befalls the income of the wicked.
7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
not so the hearts of fools.
8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.
9 The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
but he loves him who pursues righteousness.
10 There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way;
whoever hates reproof will die.
11 Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord;
how much more the hearts of the children of man!
12 A scoffer does not like to be reproved;
he will not go to the wise.
13 A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
15 All the days of the afflicted are evil,
but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.
16 Better is a little with the fear of the Lord
than great treasure and trouble with it.
17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is
than a fattened ox and hatred with it. – Proverbs 15:1-17 ESV
When you apply pressure to a tube of toothpaste, what’s contained inside suddenly gets revealed. The once-hidden contents become visible for all to see. And the same concept applies to human beings. When we find ourselves under pressure, facing the difficulties and trials that come with life on this planet, the inner contents of our life suddenly get revealed. Our once-hidden fears get put on public display. The anger we kept so carefully concealed becomes visible for all to see and experience.
Not all fools are readily apparent. Some hide their foolishness behind a guise of respectability and apparent success. They carry themselves well and display an aura of sophistication and intelligence. But just put them under pressure and the fool inside comes out to play.
The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness. – Proverbs 15:2 NLT
Jesus once said, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a person. For out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are the things that defile a person; it is not eating with unwashed hands that defiles a person” (Matthew 15:18-20 NLT).
When you boil it all down, all this talk about wisdom in the book of Proverbs is really about the condition of the heart. Verse 33 says, “Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom, humility precedes honor.” Fear of the Lord is a matter of the heart, not the head. It’s not about a cognitive understanding of or knowledge about God. The fear of the Lord manifests itself in a heart that is changed by what it sees, hears, and learns about God. It produces humility because the heart is awakened to the magnitude and majesty of God.
Fear of the Lord produces love because the heart is amazed that this great God would stoop down to show interest in the insignificant and unrighteous. Coming to grips with the reality of God changes our hearts and produces a change in our behavior and our words. In the passage above, Jesus teaches us that one of the greatest indicators of the level of our fear of the Lord and of our wisdom is what comes out of our mouths. The Proverbs spend a great deal of time dealing with the role our words play in both our relationship with God and with others.
Proverbs 15 talks about a gentle answer, harsh words, gentle words, evil words, the tongue, the mouth, lips, a fitting reply, saying the right thing, pure words, good news, and thinking carefully before speaking. What comes out of the mouth is so revealing. It indicates what’s in the heart. It is a window into our soul. We can try to fake it, attempting to fool everyone into thinking we’re filled with wisdom and righteousness,. But unexpectedly, when the pressure is on or our guard is down, the wrong words can spew out before we can stop them. We can react in anger. We can curse unexpectedly. We can respond negatively. We can gossip, slander, shout, ridicule, and verbally respond in a variety of destructive ways. And when we do, it reveals the true condition of our hearts.
The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
not so the hearts of fools. – Proverbs 15:7 ESV
It exposes that we are more foolish than we are wise. We can blame our words on the circumstances or the pressure of the moment, but James makes it clear that the condition of our hearts is responsible for the quality of our words.
Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produces olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. – James 3:11-12 NLT
Our words flow from an internal source. They are generated from within and they are simply a reflection of what is going on inside our hearts. James goes on to say, “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good words with the humility that comes from wisdom” (James 3:13 NLT). He differentiates between godly wisdom and earthly wisdom.
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:17-18 NLT
Our words are a byproduct of our wisdom. Our wisdom is a reflection of our hearts. Our hearts are radically changed by a healthy fear of God and a humble submission to Him. Watch carefully what comes out of your mouth when you get squeezed. It will provide a good indication of just how wise you really are. And, always remember that God is watching at all times.
The Lord is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good. – Proverbs 15:3 NLT
It’s amazing what we will do when we think no one is watching. Anonymity can be anesthetizing. It can lull us into a sense of false security, making us believe we are free to do what we want to do just because nobody can see us. But as believers, the reality is that we’re always being watched. Even if no one else is around, we always have an audience of One. God is never unaware or disinterested in what we’re doing or how we are behaving. He never sleeps or takes a break. He is constantly watching us and assessing not only our actions but the motives behind them. He sees all and knows all. The Psalmist put it this way:
O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence! – Psalms 139:1-7 NLT
That’s an amazing and somewhat intimidating thought, isn’t it? God knows our hearts, our thoughts, our actions, our attitudes – in short, He knows everything about us. He hears every word that comes out of our mouths and every thought that enters our minds. He knows our fears, hurts, heartaches, longings, disappointments, and dreams.
Even death and destruction hold no secrets from the Lord. How much more does he know the human heart. – Proverbs 15:11 NLT
There is nothing we can keep hidden or secret from God. So why do we try? Why do we mistakenly believe that just because we can fool our friends and family members, we can somehow fool God? There should be a certain comfort that comes from knowing that God knows. We don’t have to pretend. We don’t have to live in pretense, trying to trick God into believing we’re something we’re not. There is freedom that comes from knowing you are known. There is nothing to hide. Instead, there is only confession and an acceptance of God’s grace and forgiveness.
A big part of learning to fear God is understanding that He is all-knowing. It is an awareness that He is incapable of being deceived or hoodwinked. That awareness brings about an honest assessment of who we really are and an admission that we don’t measure up. It creates an increasing dependence on Him and ever-increasing transparency regarding our true spiritual condition. God sees our pride. He knows about the idols in our lives. He is fully aware of our fears and faults. He looks past our plastic facades and sees into our hearts. He is not impressed with our attempts at self-righteousness or swayed by our efforts at behavior modification.
He is watching, and He is waiting. He is waiting for us to give up the cover-up. Stop the pretense. Quit the pretending. Instead, He wants us to remember that all we do is for His glory. It is all to be done in His power. His strength is to be made evident in our weakness. God wants to produce in us what we cannot produce in ourselves. He is watching and He is waiting.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.