Proverbs 10:20

The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth.

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Here is a precious proverb. Do you grasp this rule of wisdom and the lessons it teaches? A just man has a pure heart, which causes his speech to be noble and valuable. A wicked man has a perverse and worthless heart, which causes his speech to be foolish and offensive. The comparison is between both the hearts and speech of good and bad men.

In dissecting this proverb, remember the source of these proverbs. While Solomon made the observations and wrote down the sayings, they originated with the Spirit of God, Who inspired his words (Eccl 12:9-11; II Pet 1:21). Since the whole Bible has one Author, we may obtain help for this proverb from other portions of Scripture (I Cor 2:13; II Pet 1:20).

It is clear that the just, which are good men, are being contrasted to the wicked, which are bad men. The just are those chosen and justified by God to be His children. But what is it about them that is valuable like silver? Their literal tongues? No, it is their speech, which is intended by tongue as a metonym, which is the means of speaking (Pr 10:21; 25:11).

The wicked are those left in their sins and inherited corruption from Adam. And what about these bad men is worth very little? Their literal hearts? No, it is rather their corrupt and profane speech, which flows from their wicked hearts. The proverb is contrasting the good hearts and good speech of just men to the bad hearts and bad speech of wicked men.

Your speech reflects the kind of heart you have. Jesus said, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matt 12:34-35).

Solomon knew the heart and speech were closely connected. He wrote, “He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend” (Pr 22:11). He knew gracious speech was valuable to kings (Pr 16:13; I Sam 18:1; Ec 10:12). What an incentive for you to talk better! He knew that such winning speech and words came from a noble and virtuous heart, which the wicked do not have by nature (Ps 58:3; Jer 17:9).

Fools say, “You do not know my heart.” But a man’s heart is known by his speech. If his speech is unkind, foolish, or perverse, his heart is wicked. If his speech is kind, wise, and acceptable, his heart is pure. Every man will be judged by his speech, right down to every idle word; you will either be justified or condemned by how you talk (Matt 12:36-37).

Reader, examine your heart (Ps 139:23-24; II Cor 13:5). Do you love kind, merciful, righteous, and wise thoughts at all times? Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life, including your speech (Pr 4:23). Confess your sins of speech and beg God for help in guiding your tongue righteously (Job 34:31-32; Is 6:1-5; Ps 19:14). Let every word you speak be like choice silver – to God’s glory and the profit of others.