In Proverbs 16:20-24; 27-28, Solomon is giving examples of how good speech and bad speech affect our lives. We can be a positive thing, like a honeycomb, or a negative thing, like a scorching fire. By our words we can change other people’s lives, though that is an implied message in these verses. Mostly it appears Solomon is encouraging the reader (his son) to be wise about his choice of words, and how he uses them so that his life is blessed.
Solomon starts off this section telling his reader exactly where he’s going. Verse 20 says that those who “give thought to the word (or matter) will discover good.” If we think before we talk, good things will follow. But it’s more than just thinking before we talk, we also need to discern what we should allow out of our mouths. Verse 21 and 23 speak to the wise person having discernment and that sweetness adds to persuasiveness. So, instead of angrily arguing our point, we should be sweet. That’s such a good point. How often do we try to persuade someone by getting angrier, louder, more abrasive? Instead, a sweet word will tend to persuade someone faster.
Solomon goes on in verse 24 that gracious words are not only sweet like a honeycomb, but they bring health to the body. However, verse 27 and 28 remind us that a worthless man’s speech is like a scorching fire and a dishonest man and a whisperer destroy relationship.
In recognizing how our words affect us, and those around us, you’d think we’d want to be careful of the words we let slip from our mouths. But sometimes we don’t think before we talk, then the words are out, and we can’t take them back. James speaks to taming the tongue, and our inability to succeed. Yet, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, according to Proverbs. And if, as James says, fresh and salt water can’t come from the same source, and if we have our source in God, if we are wise so as to have discerning lips, there is a way to bring life with our words.