Four Commands for Godly Speech – Exploring the Passages

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What does Proverbs 18:13 (printed below) say about the man who is quick to give an answer without listening?

He who gives an answer before he has listened—it will be folly and bring shame to him. (Proverbs 18:13)

This proverb is warning us against the folly of rashly uttering speech without knowledge; in particular, responding to a person before you have fully listened to him. Is it not a part of true Christ-like love and humility to hear someone out, to let him give you the full account of what he has to say before you respond to him with an answer? Wouldn’t you want to be treated in that way? This proverb warns that the opposite of Christ-like love and humility, namely, rashly jumping to conclusions without listening to the other person’s full account, results in misunderstanding and shame.

2. What is the point being conveyed by the imagery of Proverbs 25:11 (printed below?)

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. (Proverbs 25:11)

The point of this proverb is that “a word aptly spoken” (i.e., a word spoken at the proper time and in the proper way) is exceedingly precious, it is beautiful and valuable; it is a thing to be cherished. With this in mind, Isaiah 50:4 should be our prayer: “The Lord Jehovah has given me the speech of one who has been taught, so that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He wakens me every morning; he wakens my ear to listen like a disciple.”

3. According to Proverbs 25:12 (printed below,) what two elements in personal interaction are required to produce something as exquisitely beautiful as an ornament of fine gold?

As an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear. (Proverbs 25:12)

What is first required is “a wise rebuker.” “A wise rebuker” is not only someone who is willing to speak a word of rebuke or warning when such a word is required, but someone who speaks that word with grace; he speaks the truth in love. The other thing required is “an obedient ear.” That is to say, a person with a willingness to receive the word being spoken to them, rather than ignoring that word of rebuke or taking offense at it because of wounded pride or shame. In the case of “a wise rebuker” speaking to “an obedient ear” not only is truth and righteousness being promoted; but the very process itself is a thing of beauty and bears the mark of being a work of God.

4. Consider Proverbs 11:13 (printed below.) What might motivate someone to be a gossiper? What enables one to keep a matter confidential?

He who goes around as a gossiper reveals secrets, but he who has a faithful spirit keeps a matter confidential. (Proverbs 11:13)

The situation described in Proverbs 11:13a may be illustrated as follows. Mr. Smith has confided in Mr. Jones; he has shared with Mr. Jones a very intimate personal matter (perhaps for counsel, or for prayer, or for support, or for relief.) But Mr. Jones has betrayed that trust, he has revealed the matter to everyone with whom he has come into contact. Why has Mr. Jones done so? Probably because Mr. Jones has yielded to the lust to reveal something that is new or shocking and something that should be kept personal and private. What enables a man to resist the temptation to be a gossip and causes him to keep a matter confidential is integrity—honor, commitment, loyalty to one’s friend, or neighbor, or Christian brother. It is the Christian’s relationship to the Lord that motivates him to be a man of integrity.

5. How would you explain the meaning of Proverbs 18:4 (printed below?)

The words of a man’s mouth are like deep waters—a flowing brook, a fountain of wisdom. (Proverbs 18:4)

Words that are like “deep waters” are words that are profound, communicating depths of truth and wisdom. Words that are like “a flowing brook” are words that are refreshing, communicating encouragement and assurance. The only man who is able to speak such words, the man of whom this proverb is prophetically speaking, is our Lord Jesus Christ (note Colossians 2:3 and Isaiah 50:4). As Christian men and women we are called to imitate Christ our Savior by dispensing the grace of God, and to do so by means of our speech (note Ephesians 4:29). The means by which we may fulfill this divine calling is presented to us in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”