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The Value of a Right Answer
1. This verse is probably part of the proverbial thought found in vs.23-26.
a. That section dealt with the issue of showing partiality… respect of persons, especially in judgment.
b. Those in positions of power and authority (like a king’s son, prince, or judge) should not excuse wickedness just because it is committed by someone of note – the nobility, the wealthy, or the powerful.
c. Justice is to be blind… and thus not influenced by outward appearance.
d. The passage states that the one showing partiality calls the evil deeds of the upper class “righteous” and as a result, all the ordinary people hate him for it. (vs.24)
e. But when a judge does NOT show partiality and rebukes the one doing evil (regardless of his wealth or social position) will be a delight to the people.
2. Verse 26 seems to be a further explanation of the thought in verse 25:
a. The people will love the ruler who judges fairly and justly.
b. And the ruler who gives a righteous answer will be “kissed.”
1. Answer: speech, utterance, words, statement, talk.
a. The term has a wide range of use.
b. In context (if we assume this to be part of the previous section), the author has been speaking about two kinds of judges with two kinds of “speech.”
c. Judges are to hear the evidence in a case, and then give an “answer” or a verdict based on the evidence.
d. The answer they give can have a profound effect on the lives of those involved.
e. If it is a national issue, the answer they give can affect the whole country.
f. The “answers” (words; speech; etc) of a judge or those in positions of power are extremely important.
g. We should pay close attention to the words and answers that judges give… and the speeches of those in positions of power.
h. Those “answers” can affect our lives and our well being.
2. Right: straight, right, upright, just righteous, honest
a. In particular, the author mentions RIGHT answers… right words… right speeches.
b. Right speaks of those verdicts and judicial “answers” that are righteous… just… fair… straightforward… and honest.
c. A just answer is one that is not based on outward appearance.
d. It is an answer or a verdict given that is free of prejudice.
e. It is an answer that doesn’t even take into consideration a man’s social position, a man’s skin color, ethnicity, a man’s wealth, or fame.
f. It is an answer that stems from the truth – one that is just and fair.
g. That is what judges are expected to behave.
3. While it appears that this verse is part of the whole proverbial thought of verses 23-26, it does stand alone as a complete thought.
a. Thus, it is applicable in lots of situations – not only in the courtroom.
b. We too should give “right answers.”
c. Our speech should never be defiled by bigotry, prejudice, respect of persons, or any kind of injustice.
d. If someone asks us a question, they should expect an honest answer.
e. If someone asks us a question, they have a right to expect the truth, and we have an obligation to give them nothing but an honest, truthful, right answer.
f. Almost nothing ruins the testimony of a believer faster than lies and dishonesty.
1. Of course, this expression needs to be understood as “proverbial.”
a. This expression is a figure of speech.
i. It is not to be taken literally… especially today.
ii. I do want to give honest answers, but I don’t want every man to kiss my lips.
iii. This proverb does not mean that every man will literally kiss you if you give right answers.
iv. It is a figure of speech designed to drive home a literal point.
b. The expression is to be understood in light of its historical setting.
i. In that day and in that culture, kissing (even men kissing men) was common.
ii. It was more like a handshake and would not have the same connotation that it might have today.
iii. This kind of kissing would have had a very positive tone in the day when it was written.
c. This expression also needs to be understood in light of the context.
i. Kissing the lips in this expression is to be connected with what was said in the previous verses.
ii. If a judge is prejudiced, partial, and shows respect of persons, by calling their wicked behavior “righteous”, then the people will ABHOR him. They will hate him. (vs.24)
iii. But if a judge is fair and honest, and he REBUKES the wicked (even if he is powerful, rich and famous) then the people will be delighted. They will love him.
iv. That person will be considered blessed.
2. A good answer (righteous, fair, just, honest judgment) will evoke a KISS from the people.
a. This kiss is a continuation of thought from the delight and blessing of verse 25.
b. It is clearly a sign of approval, joy, support, agreement, and appreciation.
c. Everyone will approve and be appreciative of the judge whose judgments are right, just, and fair.
d. The expression “kissing the lips” is hyperbole, an exaggerated expression designed to make a point.
e. They might not literally kiss the lips of the judge, but they sure will be happy that he’s on the bench… and not the kind of judge mentioned in vs.24.
3. This truth is certainly applicable to us today.
a. One who gives honest answers will be appreciated – and that goes not only for judges but for the average person on the street.
b. People value a person who is honest and fair in their speech.
i. Citizens value honest answers from their politicians.
ii. Students value honest answers from their teachers.
iii. The congregation appreciates honest answers from the pastor.
iv. Consumers appreciate honest answers to their questions from a salesman.
v. In every earthly realm, people want the raw truth. They want others to be honest and open with them.
vi. They don’t want to find out AFTER the purchase that the product only lasts one year.
vii. They don’t want to find our when it’s too late that the politician really knew he would be raising taxes… even though he said he wouldn’t.
viii. Unfortunately, when it comes to the truth of God’s Word, most people do NOT want an honest answer. They seem to be content with a lie.
ix. But for the most part, honest answers are valued by everyone.
c. One translation (actually closer to a paraphrase) captured this idea: “An honest answer is a sign of true friendship.”
i. He interpreted the “kiss” as a sign of friendship.
ii. A true friend will give an honest answer – even if the truth hurts.
iii. The one who gives reliably honest answers is respected, honored, and loved.
d. Prov. 15:23 – Good answers are appreciated! It brings joy – maybe even a kiss. Good answers are valued.
e. Prov. 27:6 – “Open rebuke is better than secret love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
i. Some men show outward affection, but they are enemies. Their words are not good.
ii. But others may say honest words (words that we don’t really want to hear), but perhaps NEED to hear.
1. Those are the words that should be valued and appreciated.
2. Those words, though they may wound, are coming from a true friend… and are for our good.
3. True friends speak honestly to us… they speak the truth, painful though it may be. That’s love.
iii. When someone gives us honest answers, they should be “kissed.”
1. We should be grateful for their honesty… because it is for our good in the long run.
2. We might not be grateful immediately. But if we stop and think about it, we BECOME grateful. For then we begin to realize that the words of correction are beneficial, profitable, and valuable.
iv. Only a friend would stick his neck out with that kind of an honest answer. Everyone else may have “known” about the issue, but didn’t bother to say anything.
1. Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
2. And if a friend does stick his neck out to speak honestly to you (something you might not want to hear), don’t get mad as if he were an enemy. Treat him as a friend.
3. You don’t have to kiss him, but you should appreciate the kindness of the honest answer.
f. Prov.23:15-16 – A father rejoices when his son speaks “right things.”
i. “Right things” defined: (one word) = evenness, uprightness, straightness, fair, level.
ii. It encourages the father to hear his son speak such words because it indicates that his son is growing in wisdom and is maturing – perhaps in life and perhaps also in the faith.
iii. He might feel like kissing his son when he hears such good answers.
iv. A son who speaks honestly causes his father to rejoice.
v. A son who speaks with fairness and is level headed in his speech causes a father to rejoice.
vi. Solomon seemed to be speaking about good, old fashioned honesty in speech. You can trust what your son says – and that delights the father.
vii. In every setting, people like to hear right words… good answers.