Proverbs – Week 19 Sermon Notes

Anatomy of wise speech

O. Intro:

A healthy tongue should be pink and covered with small nodules(taste buds sit on top of these bumps).

So, stick out your tongue to your friend or family, let’s do a tongue “health check”

Oh, wait a minute, that is considered rude or childish in our culture…but in some cultures like Tibet, it is greeting.

*Maybe post-covid instead of a handshake we can stick out our tongues in greeting.

Practically speaking it is harder to greet someone verbally while doing the “tongue greeting”

Ok, so no insult intended…take a look at your tongue(or friends tongue) and see if it indicates a health problem:

Here are some indicators I read this week (I’ll add a few of my own non-medical comments)

-White coating or white spots (or yogurt for breakfast)

-If it is red not pink could be a problem (unless you just ate a popsicle)

-Black and hairy…not kidding…the doctor wrote that means there is a problem (I didn’t really need the medical article to know that a black hairy tongue is a problem)

Now for a random but super interesting fact: A blue whale’s tongue weighs almost 6,000 pounds.

Proverbs has a lot to say about the tongue…but of course it is not describing the actual thing in our mouths…but the words that come from our mouths.

It does describe what a healthy and an unhealthy tongue is like.

Just like an unhealthy physical tongue can be an indication of larger health problems…so too our words indicate a larger problem to be addressed…a heart problem.

And just like Proverbs uses “tongue” to describe our words…it uses heart to describe the real “inner us”…our command posts, our center of motivation.

So…we are all on a spectrum of moving from folly to wisdom…becoming more like Christ in our hearts over time…this movement should show up in the use of words.

As our “heart health” improves…we become more like Christ “in there”…it will show up in our “tongue health”…our words will look more like Christ “out here”

So last week we looked out a word pathology report…this week a healthy word(tongue) anatomy.

Here’s how we will do this: 2 parts

1. An anatomy of healthy (wise) words from Proverbs

2. Look at Jesus…his heart and the words that flowed from his heart.

1. An Anatomy of healthy words

I think a single word that could describe what Proverbs presents as “wise/healthy” words…is appropriate.

What that means is that healthy words have good “Timing”

Anyone can learn to repeat words…but wisdom is required to know when to speak which words.

We have all experienced others speaking words to us…that in themselves were not wrong…but the timing made them life-taking not life-giving.

At the beginning of the year, as we began our study of Proverbs, we looked at how wisdom is SA…situation awareness.

The ability to correctly read and respond to what is really happening in and around us.

Wise/healthy words are words spoken with good SA…right words, right time.

And a right heart is required for this SA…because a selfish heart is by default going to cause us to lack good SA.

We are not going to see a situation, a person, like God wants us to see it if we are approaching others from a “me first” posture.

A heart for God and others…is required to have SA…to see others and what God is up to.

-Then to be able to speak words that honor God and love others.

From a “me first” posture…flows “me first” words.

Wrong words and wrong timing.

The impact, then, is that our words…which could have been used to build others up according to their needs…served to tear them down, or at the very least failed to add life to them.

So, with SA in mind let’s look at some Proverbs.

10:19 Where words are many sin is not absent, he who holds his tongue is wise

-It takes SA to know when we are just talking too much

-it takes self-control (a sub-category of wisdom) to just stop talking sometimes.

*I once heard a man speak at a friend’s retirement.

The man was given 2-3 minutes to present…he spent 20 minutes mostly talking about himself.

-Everyone in the ceremony was amazed at his lack of SA…he went on and on about himself…unaware of how inappropriate it was.

-It became so bad…those in room began to clap to get him to stop talking and sit down…and they kept clapping until he finally did.

*It was sad, actually painful to watch…he was a highly educated, highly skilled man…but he was without wisdom.

Sometimes we walk away from a situation and think “I talked too much”…wisdom figures this out during the conversation not just after.

Wisdom means growing in SA all the time…become more and more aware of our words and their impact and appropriateness.

10:20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver

10:21 The tongue of the wise nourishes many

The wise tongue is precious and it is nourishing to others…it knows what is beautiful and life giving to say.

This requires paying attention to the needs of others….not just saying what we want to say.

10:32 The lips of the righteous know what is fitting

This one is very clearly speaking about words in context…those who are righteous(love God) know what is fitting to say

Plumbing fittings vary in size and shape and type.

When you have two pieces of copper that correctly join together…they fit.

Fitting words means “This is the right thing to say in this situation”

15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger

This doesn’t mean that we should never speak words that are firm, direct, decisive…but it is speaking to the necessity of context.

Wisdom sees the need to dial back…folly simply escalates the situation.

15:23 A man finds joy in giving an apt reply-and how good is a timely word!

Not many things bring us more satisfaction than this…a right word at the right time.

Many times, my friends and family have rejoiced as they told me of how they spoke just the right words and someone was helped by them.

I rejoiced with them…because this is cause for joy.

There is simple no reason why this couldn’t be true more often in our lives.

15:28 The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.

This is the contrast between those who desire to follow God and those who are unconcerned with God…and how this contrast shows up in words.

Those who desire the glory of God in their words…will weigh the possible outcomes of their words.

Those who are unconcerned with God’s glory or the good of others…will simple have an unfiltered flow from foolish heart to foolish speech.

17:27 A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.

Last week I saw a young lady being walked by her dog.

At one point, her unruly and rather large dog tried to drag her into traffic right across the street from the church.

She was yelling and leaning and pulling back on the leash, as this homicidal/suicidal canine was utterly unconcerned with its master’s wishes.

Restraint=means words on a leash.

Words that are led by a master.

Jesus masters us…we master our words.

Sometime we will say “I just had to speak my mind.”

That’s great if you have the mind of Christ

Phil. 2 in some says “Have this mind in you that was also in Christ”

Then it describes how he humbled himself…for the glory of God and the good of others.

Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t have the mind of Christ.

So sometimes we should speak our minds, and sometimes we should restrain our words.

25:11 A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver

This is an elegant, poetic way of describing Word SA…right words(apples of gold), right time (settings of silver) beautiful thing to behold.

26:4,5 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly or he will be wise in his own eyes.

This passage has often been used to demonstrate how Scripture has errors…contradicts itself.

This is of course absurd…do you really think the author/compiler of Proverbs would forget what they just wrote one sentence earlier?

And since the wise compiler had a point in making these two contrasting statements side by side…we would be wise to ask “what is that point?”

So…what is the point?

Word SA is the point…wisdom is the point.

How do you answer a fool?

It depends on the situation…knowing what to say will require wisdom on our part.

At times you answer very directly…point out their folly.

At other times…you remain quiet, or redirect to what the real issue is.

* “Not answering a fool according to their folly” doesn’t necessarily mean we remain quiet”

It just means sometimes we address the folly directly other times we don’t answer it directly.

One more…let’s finish with what is to me, the funniest example of a lack of situational awareness.

27:14 If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning it will be taken as a curse.

That Proverb has always been hilarious to me…all kinds of mental images come to my mind.

Suns coming up…there you are after a good night’s sleep on your porch, coffee in hand…and your neighbor pulls into the driveway after a nightshift.

“Howdy there neighbor…God bless you…beautiful day eh?”

“Why you blankety, blank so and so!”

Now if this situationally unaware individual had simply paid attention to his neighbor he might have known to wait.

Perhaps if he saved his blessing till later it would have been received as a blessing not a curse.

The point of this Proverb is that wisdom requires SA…even in giving blessings to others.

SA requires paying attention to others…what is going on with them…not just me.

Okay…so we have summarized and simplified wise words down to this: SA

Situation Awareness is knowing right words and right timing.

Why does this summarize wise words so well?

Because wisdom in the Bible equals seeing others not just myself…putting their needs ahead of mine…this includes the use of words.

Wisdom…is not just learning rules…even memorizing proverbs.

Proverbs describes a lifetime of growth in wisdom…walking a path.

You can’t simple teach someone who lacks wisdom the right words to speak in the infinitely wide variety of situations they will encounter in life.

When “A” then you say “B”

But when “C” then say “D”

But life is not that simple…it is more like… “A then Z then F then A and then…I don’t even know that that is…then D.”

Now what is right to say?

What rule do I apply here?

There is no rule…but there is wisdom…so we need to grow in SA.

So, part two…

2. Let’s look at Jesus and how he used words…by looking at the heart from which those words flowed.

He is of course the ultimate example of wise words…wise heart=right words at the right time.

If you read the gospels you will see that his words seem unpredictable.

“Wow that was harsh Jesus…very direct”

“That was super sensitive.”

“Okay now he is just being quiet”

“There he just called Peter a “rock”…oops, now he is calling him “Satan.”

You might conclude “Jesus is impossible to predict in terms of what he is going to say.”

And in a sense that is true….so

Trying to merely trying to ask “WWJS” “What would Jesus say?” is not really practical.

But there is another sense in which what Jesus said was entirely “predictable.”

He was always going to say what was the right thing to say.

He was going to say what his Father wanted him to say and what others needed him to say…those were the same thing.

So, to emulate Jesus we shouldn’t try to ask “what words would Jesus say here?”

The better approach would be to pray, like Jesus did… “Father not my will (or words) be done(said)…but yours.”

This was the Lord’s approach…this is the heart from which wise words come…surrender to God and love for others.

That’s why discipleship…walking with Jesus…will transform our words over time.

What you see with Jesus’ words is perfect SA…always reading what is going on and what needs to happen or be said next…because of the condition of his heart.

He had a surrendered heart…so his words were always spot on.

Since this topic is very broad…we will focus on a single passage in our last few minutes.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-29

Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th century pastor…pointed out that in the four gospels, 89 chapters total…there is only one place where Jesus tells us about his own heart

It is in this passage.

He said “I am gentle and lowly in heart.”

Since Proverbs says “Above all else guard your heart…all of your life flows from there.” 4:23

When Jesus says just one thing about his own heart…we should pay close attention it.

“I am gentle and lowly in heart.”

Gentleness is “controlled strength”

Don’t confuse it with “passivity”

His passionate heart was under the control of the glory of God and the good others.

So…Jesus’ words didn’t’ flow from a combative, “I must win heart” (though he always could)

Or from a thin skinned, I am “insecure heart.” (because he never was)

Even though technically, everything really is about him…he didn’t make things about him.

His heart was gentle… “filled with strength under the control of God’s glory and the good of others.”

Lowly=means humble.

It was used to describe the poor, the powerless…the low in social status.

How can Jesus say he has this kind of heart…he knows who he really is…he is Lord of heaven and earth.

Here’s how it all comes together in him and in us…

Phil. 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, (this is how you are think about yourself and one another…in choosing words and actions) 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.

Lowly and humble was the heart of Jesus that caused him to take on the form of a servant  and die a humble and humiliating death.

This is how he described his heart…probably not how we would have described the “Son of God in power…the Messiah…maker and ruler of the Universe.”

But he said…“I am Gentle and humble heart”

This is not what people expected, not what they expect still…it confused them then, it confuses them still.

I want wise words from a wise heart…this last week, my own selfish heart and selfish words…made me tired and sad.

I’m okay…just being honest.

I am still too far from a heart like Jesus…words like Jesus

What am I do?

Well, I am to take up Jesus’ invitation…here it is again, personalized.

Come to me, Terry, because you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

A yoke is a tool designed to make carrying a heavy load easier.

What am I going to do…I’m going to continue to take his yoke…continue to learn from him.

Continue to pursue his gentle and humble heart.

Continue to find rest in him…as I wrestle with the fact of my own selfish heart and words.

I will not be content with a heart and words that are selfish.

Will you join me in taking decisive, persistent action against selfish hearts and words?

And as continued selfishness wears us down at times…we must continually find our rest in him.

Have you failed in your words and heart this week and it has worn you out?

Have others failed in their words towards you and you have been hurt by them?

Maybe you are just worn out, period…Jesus does not stand ready to hammer you for your weakness and failure…listen one more time to his words to you…from his heart.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-29

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