Proverbs 20:15

The Lips of Knowledge



1. This is a very simple proverb. There is no question what is meant. It is simple, but profound.

2. There are a couple of contrasts being made here:

a. The contrast of value

b. The contrast of rarity

There is gold, and a multitude of rubies:

1. Gold and rubies are rare.

2. Gold and rubies are also valuable.

3. But rarity and value of precious metals and precious stones are relative terms.

a. Though all precious metals and stones are rare, some are rarer than others.

b. Though all precious metals and stones are valuable, some are more valuable than others.

4. Yes, gold and rubies are rare; however, Solomon is contrasting something that is somewhat rare and somewhat valuable, to that which is EXTREMELY rare and valuable.

a. Notice he uses the term “multitude” to describe rubies.

b. They are precious, rare stones, but there are whole mines FULL of them.

c. They can be found in jewelry stores in virtually every city in the world today.

d. I Kings 10:21 – In Solomon’s day there was plenty of gold.

e. Gold is relatively rare today too. However, today almost every person in this country wears gold every day.

f. Gold can also be found in any jewelry store in any city worldwide… even in Walmart!

g. So, yes, there is a relative nature to the rarity of precious metals and stones.

h. That’s Solomon’s point in the first part of this proverb.

5. Gold and rubies are relatively rare, and relatively valuable.

But the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel

A. The Lips of Knowledge

1. Now comes the real contrast: between that which is relatively rare and relatively valuable (gold and rubies) and that which is EXTREMELY rare and valuable: lips of knowledge.

a. Note the contrast in descriptions:
• There are a “multitude” of rubies.
• The lips of knowledge are a “precious” jewel.
» Precious: Splendor; honor; value; a treasure,
» Of course, they are valuable because they are rare.
» You can buy gold and rubies anywhere. Just save up your pennies.
» The lips of knowledge are not so easily obtained.
» They cannot be purchased. You will never find lips of knowledge at Walmart.
» Job knew that. (Cf. Job 28:12-18)

2. There is a certain value to gold and rubies. But the REAL precious jewels are the lips of knowledge!

a. Consider how much more valuable wisdom and knowledge are over wealth.
• In our illustration we have two men going to the fish market to buy fish for their restaurants.
• One man inherited a whole chain of fish restaurants, and went to the fish market with a million dollars in his pocket. He is filthy rich. He has much wealth… but not much wisdom.
• Suppose another man was at the market, who did not have nearly as much money in his pocket as you did, but he had wisdom and understanding.
• The rich man is not able to distinguish between that which is cheap and worthless. He gets hoodwinked into buying old smelly fish for twice what it is worth. He’s going to run his restaurant chain into the ground!
• However, the man who had much less money, but wisdom and understanding knows which fish to buy. He buys good, fresh fish for a reasonable price. His customers are happy and keep on coming back.
• Which business would you want to invest in?

b. How much better is it to seek after wisdom and knowledge than to seek after gold and silver!

c. Prov. 3:13-16 – Wisdom and understanding are far more valuable than gold, silver, and precious stones.

d. Prov. 8:11 – For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.

e. This is an oft repeated theme in Proverbs.

f. In a sense, it comes as a WARNING.

g. Those who seek after wealth rather than seeking after wisdom and understanding do so at their own peril! It has been the ruin of many a man (I Tim. 6:9-10).

3. Solomon was qualified to give us this warning.

a. He had BOTH riches and wisdom.

b. He had wealth immeasurable.

c. He was given more wisdom than any man on earth.

d. He knew the value of both—and he more than anyone is qualified to tell us which is MORE valuable.

e. And he DOES tell us! In fact, he tells us MANY times in various ways in this book!

4. Perhaps another more subtle contrast is intended here as well.

a. Gold and jewels are things that people tend to hoard up for themselves. (It’s all mine!)

b. But “lips” implies speech. By speaking words of wisdom a man is not hoarding it up for himself, but rather, sharing it with others.

c. Gold is usually hoarded. Wisdom is to be shared.

d. You don’t expect a rich man to pass out gold freely.

e. But you DO expect a wise man to share his wisdom.

f. There is quite a contrast between a rich miser and a wise sage sharing wisdom with his students. That seems to be implied here. (hoarding vs. sharing)

g. Prov. 10:20-21 – The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth. The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.
• Here Solomon states that the lips of the righteous FEED many… they share their knowledge and wisdom.
• Lips are for feeding (figuratively). They feed WISDOM.
• Fools refuse to eat and thus “die” for a lack of wisdom/food.
» Fools know where the wisdom/food is.
» It is available to them. It is within their reach.
» However, they refuse to eat it… and thus die.
• The point that relates to the proverb in chapter 20 is that lips feed.
» When wise men use their lips and speak, they dispense wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.
» Prov. 15:7 – The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: (disperse = scatter, spread, sprinkle, etc.) Fools may WANT to… and TRY to… but they don’t HAVE any wisdom to spread. They usually spread nothing but folly.
• And note also the VALUE. The tongue (same figurative meaning as lips) is as choice silver. It too is like precious metal… valuable.
• Prov. 16:16 – How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!
» Those who DO eat of it discover that wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are far better than silver or gold.
• Prov. 16:21 – “The sweetness of the lips increaseth learning.”
» From the lips of a wise man, you and I can INCREASE learning.
» There is a great advantage to listening to words of wisdom.
» Those words are sweet. They are valuable.
» They cause US to increase in our learning.
» Lips were MADE for dispensing wisdom… for sharing learning…
» Therefore, we ought to use our lips for the good of others.
» We also ought to SEEK OUT wise men, wise teachers, wise friends, wise authors… and increase our learning from their lips of knowledge.
» When you find the lips of knowledge—take advantage of them! Increase in learning!

5. Of course, the MOST valuable lips of knowledge dispense God’s Words.

a. Hosea 4:6 – “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” This is a lack of the knowledge of God.

b. Psalm 119:72 – “The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.”
• Human wisdom is good in the natural realm. You need earthly wisdom to do your job every day… to take care of your household… to balance the checkbook… for the everyday things of earthly life.
• However, the wisdom found in God’s word is far more valuable.
• God’s wisdom shared through Christian fellowship is better than thousands of silver and gold.
• God’s wisdom is dispensed through the lips of a devoted mother and father, teaching their children the things of the Lord.
• God’s wisdom is dispensed through the lips of a Sunday school teacher.
• Eph. 4:29 – “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

6. The lips of knowledge are valuable… and they come with a PRICE.

a. Prov. 2:1-6 – We can ALL obtain this wisdom, IF we seek it with our whole heart.

b. Phil. 3:7-8 – Obtaining the knowledge of Christ is worth forsaking all the gold and rubies in the world.
• This is the experiential knowledge of Christ that is costly.
• An intellectual knowledge of Christ is relatively cheap. You can buy a few good books and learn the information.
• But that does NOT mean that you have experienced the knowledge of Christ in your soul.
• Getting to know the knowledge of God THAT way requires a lifetime of abandoning oneself to do His will… abiding in Christ… and that can be costly.

7. The lips of knowledge Solomon describes is not the property of a few, select sages.

a. Rather, it is the kind of knowledge the book of Proverbs urges us ALL to obtain!

b. And when we obtain it, there are many ways that WE can dispense God’s wisdom with our lips:
• How precious are the lips of one who brings the gospel message of Christ to the lost… the glad tidings of great joy to the heart of the weary sinner!

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