Words of the Wise (Pt.2)

“A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words,
   And the deeds of a man’s hands will return to him.”
Proverbs 12:14 

As an amateur gardener, I experience a great deal of joy by poking tiny seeds into the freshly prepared soil of my garden plot, eagerly anticipating the produce soon to come. Aside from watering, weeding, watching, and waiting, I continue on in general ignorance of additional contributions I could or should make to encourage a successful harvest. Last year, as my efforts yielded both successes and failures, I was thankful for the former, disappointed by the latter, yet remained equally clueless regarding the reasons for either. One thing I know for certain—I have a green thumb when it comes to growing peppers. Whether I can grow the particular kind of peppers I prefer is a question which, as of yet, has no clear answer. 

Although I purchased and planted two bell pepper plants last spring, I failed to grow even one bell pepper. I did, however, grow hundreds of jalapeno peppers without even trying. The reason? My “bell pepper” plants turned out to be mere imposters—jalapenos, masquerading under the identity of their milder relatives. Their spicy deception remained undetected until the jalapeno plants could conceal their true nature no longer, and in accordance with Jesus’ words, they were known by their fruits. Regardless of the label they bore, these plants were no more capable of producing bell peppers than they were of producing Godiva chocolates. 

Last Monday, we began a study of the wise woman’s speech as taught by the book of Proverbs. So far, we’ve seen that our speech is important for two reasons: It shows we are not of this world, and it identifies us with our family. Today, we’re delving a bit deeper…

How do you distinguish a wise woman from a foolish one? You probably know by now that looks don’t provide much help in identifying a woman of wisdom. Unfortunately, a person’s age offers no guarantee of either the possession or absence of wisdom, so you can’t judge on the basis of graying hair or stooped shoulders. No, if you want to tell the difference between the wise and the foolish, you don’t need to look so much as you need to listen. As Proverbs 17:28 teaches, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” A foolish woman may be able to go incognito as long as her lips remain sealed, but we all know that can’t last for long. Just as the fruit of the pepper plants revealed their real identity, so too, does the fruit of a woman’s lips reveal the true condition of her heart. Listen to the words a woman chooses, and you’ll quickly discover whether they spring from a heart full of wisdom or a heart fully of folly.

Think about your own speech patterns for a moment. What is the overriding theme, content, or tone of the words you use? If characteristics like encouragement, patience, edification, truth, love, gentleness, kindness, compassion, peace, purity, and worship mark your everyday language, then I’ve got good news–your heart (your inner person, the real you) is probably quite healthy. If, on the other hand, your speech tends to be a bit more like mine–critical, negative, sarcastic, unloving, and unwholesome–then you and I both need to stay in closer contact with the Great Cardiologist. When it comes to changing our speech, the crucial issue is not primarily that we learn better communication techniques or focus on removing certain words from our vocabulary; the goal is to see changes in our speech preceded and motivated by changes in our hearts (Lk. 6:43-45; Matt. 12:33-37). 

If I wanted bell peppers from my garden, I could never get them with the plants I had. I would need to uproot the jalapeno plants and replace them with bell pepper plants. In a similar way, as Christian women who desire to speak with wisdom, we must seek the Lord’s help to uproot the folly residing in our hearts and replace it with the wisdom from above. James 3 makes it clear that taming the tongue is a human impossibility. Yet, in the area of producing Christlike speech, as in all others, what is impossible with man is entirely possible with God.

Willpower will not produce wise speech. We need supernatural assistance if we ever hope to tame our unruly tongues. A good place to start is in asking God to give you a desire to speak in ways that reflect the character of His Son and bring glory to His name. As you continue to pray, begin to soak yourself in Scripture. Read it, memorize it, think about it, listen to solid Bible teachers explain it, and then apply what you learn to your life. Hearing and obeying God’s Word will begin to produce change from the inside out. The writer of Proverbs encourages us, “Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips” (Prov. 22:17-18). The more wisdom is contained in our hearts, the more wisdom will be communicated by our lips. As you ask the Lord to help you change the way that you speak, never forget that the words of the wise get their start in the heart!

 

Here’s today’s proverb:

“Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless,

is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.”

Proverbs 26:7 

 

Photo: Tom Schmucker

Words of the Wise (Pt.1)

“There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.”
Proverbs 20:15

Born as a Texan and raised as a Hoosier, I don’t exactly blend in with the Tar Heels among whom I currently reside. There are many ways in which my southern neighbors and I differ, not the least of which are our views on such topics as cooking and eating. What Southerners call sweet tea, I call syrup. What I call cereal, they call rabbit food. What they see as breakfast meat, I see as inedible. Yes, indeed, when it comes to matters of cuisine, I’m afraid it’s rather clear that I ain’t from around these parts.

Even if I could stomach the idea of eating a menu item that contains the words “liver” and “mush” in its name, my foreign roots would still remain entirely obvious. It’s not only what will never cross my lips that sets me apart; it’s also what comes out of my lips. Last year, after telling a lifelong North Carolinian where I was originally from, I had to suppress a smile as she responded in her thick, southern drawl, “I could tell by your accent that you weren’t from around here.”  Marked by a Midwestern “accent” such as my own, it’s unlikely anyone would question the fact that my home must be a long way from here.

Just as a Southerner would rarely be mistaken as a Minnesotan, or a Texan as a New Yorker, so too, should a Christian woman’s speech clearly identify her as being different. Whenever a woman of wisdom opens her mouth in conversation, it should be obvious to those around her that she’s a long way from home. The words she uses and the way she expresses them should reveal an otherworldly origin. Her speech should be marked by a distinctive sound, which some have referred to as the “accent of Heaven.”  The book of Proverbs is brimming with truths regarding the speech of the wise vs. the speech of the fool, and the careful application of these truths will help to distinguish us as women of wisdom rather than women of the world. Today’s article begins a series for Practicing Proverbs Mondays which will address the topic of the wise woman’s speech: What does it sound like? and How can we emulate it?

Although my speech may sound odd to my southern neighbors, if they heard my family talk, they’d know immediately why I sound the way that I do. My speech not only identifies my origin; it also reflects the family to whom I’m related. I love reading Luke’s description of how the people in Jesus’ hometown reacted to the extraordinary way in which He spoke in the synagogue, “And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’” (Lk. 4:22). As Jesus spoke, those who heard him recognized an uncommon sound which grabbed their attention. How did the son of an ordinary carpenter learn to talk like that? What the people of Nazareth didn’t realize was that Jesus actually did talk like His Father, not his earthly father, but His Heavenly Father. If they were familiar with the voice of Jesus’ Father, they’d recognize immediately Whose Son He truly was.

As children of God, our speech should also reflect the accent of our Father, but we must be saturated in His Word before we can echo the sound of His voice. That’s what this series is all about—ingraining the words of our Father in our heart, so His thoughts begin to flow naturally from our lips. I hope you will join with me in studying the precious jewels to be found in the words of the wise.

 

Here’s today’s proverb:

“Listen to counsel and accept discipline,

that you may be wise the rest of your days.”

Proverbs 19:20

Photo: Vivek Chugh