Proverbs 16:21

The Sweetness of the Lips

21a The wise in heart shall be called prudent:

A. The Wise in Heart

1. Wisdom was never intended to dwell in the head only. Wisdom is to reside in the heart. That is the proper seat of wisdom.

a. Solomon had much wisdom in his head… and for a while it seemed to be in his heart too…

b. I Kings 3:11-12 – God gave to Solomon a wise heart.

c. But later on in life, though he still retained the wisdom in his heart, his heart was turned away from wisdom.

d. II Kings 11:1-4 – His many wives turned his heart away from the Lord… and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

e. Wisdom in the head is not the same as wisdom in the heart.

f. Prov.22:17 – the heart needs to be APPLIED to wisdom. (apply = to place; to set; to put something somewhere; to appoint or establish something in a position)

g. Wisdom in the head must be purposefully placed right in the midst of all of our thoughts, words, and deeds.

h. It is to be applied to everyday life… or it is but head knowledge.

2. Solomon is speaking here about wisdom in the HEART…

a. The person Solomon describes in this proverb not only has information stored in his head; he has wisdom in his heart… and it is applied to his life.

b. His wisdom is practiced… experienced… put to good use.

B. The Wise in Heart Shall Be Called Prudent

1. The wise in heart shall be called prudent by those who have been the recipients of his wisdom.

a. Prudent: discerning; perceptive;

b. Those who have heard his wisdom, and have benefited by it, will call him “prudent.”

c. Solomon is speaking about a teacher or exhorter of one sort or another… who has gained a reputation for being prudent… discerning.

d. People CALL him prudent because he has demonstrated it… and they have benefited from it.

2. Men who have wisdom ought to SHARE it with others… for their edification.

a. That’s what’s wisdom is for… not just to be hoarded!

b. It is a gift from God… given to be dispersed.

c. Wisdom often comes with age, and older folks have a responsibility to share their wisdom; light makes us accountable to use it… and share it!

d. When you do, you will gain a reputation for being prudent… wise… discerning.

e. When you have gained a reputation for being prudent, others will hear of your wisdom and come to you for advice and counsel.

f. The queen of Sheba heard of the wisdom of Solomon and came to him to hear for herself.

3. I John 3:17 – If we have this world’s goods and don’t share it, how can we say God’s love is in us?

a. How much more is this principle so when we have heavenly goods (spiritual truth; wisdom) and don’t share it! God expects us to SHARE what we have… as He leads.

b. Think of information… if you KNOW information that could prevent an accident, you have a responsibility to share that information!

c. How much more if we posses divine wisdom? And what about the gospel!?

d. Those who receive wisdom from such a man will greatly benefit from it. He will appreciate the information you give, and he will appreciate YOU. He will call you “prudent.”

21b And the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning.

1. The parallel in this proverb:

a. Heart and lips: His heart is wise and his lips are sweet. That is a good combination!

b. Benefit to the hearers: In the first part of the proverb he speaks of the WISDOM of a man’s speech which benefits the hearer.

c. In this portion of the proverb Solomon speaks about the SWEETNESS of your speech… which also greatly benefits the hearer.

d. Recognition of the man: The man is not only recognized as prudent (discerning), but here he is acknowledged as a good teacher… he “increases the learning” of the hearer.

2. His speech is not just wise, it is SWEET…

a. Sweet: pleasant; sweet; enjoyable. It describes a taste of something like sugar or honey.

b. Prov. 27:9 – The only other use of this word (sweet)—used in a context of a sweet smelling ointment which is likened to the sweet counsel of a friend.

c. The context of this section has to do with SPEECH (vs.21-24 – lips; instruction; teaching; mouth; learning; lips; pleasant words; etc.)

d. The prudent man makes wisdom appealing to those who hear… sweet to the taste of the one being addressed… desirable.

e. It is possible to speak wisdom WITH sweetness or WITHOUT. One can growl out words of wisdom in a threatening way… or speak them sweetly.

f. The wise in heart package truth in a way that it is attractive…
• You catch more prey with honey than with vinegar. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!
• Sometimes words of wisdom are hard to swallow… but necessary.
• When words of wisdom that need to be spoken are accompanied by a healthy dose of sweetness, they are usually well received.
• Paul wrote: “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.” Solomon tells us to add a little honey too.
• The kind of speech Solomon describes here is speech (while it may be direct and firm) it is kind, gracious, thoughtful, and considerate… thus sweet to the hearer.

g. This is good advice for parents… especially us dads who might be tempted to growl on occasion!

3. Wisdom IS sweet in itself, but it is not always presented that way.

a. Some present wisdom with a sledge hammer… with such force that it is hard to receive… with such intensity that the hearer is scared away…

b. I have heard men preach God’s word that way. They growl, scowl, and scold, and make the sweet word of God a bitter pill to swallow.

c. A man may have good motives (he wants to increase the learning of his hearers)… but the way he presents truth makes a huge difference in the way it is received.

d. Of course, this does not mean that we should CANDY COAT the truth… or misrepresent the truth. That is not the point here.
• Nor is he talking about flattery (sugary words)… to flatter and deceive… or to trick someone.
• This is not a deceptive but a noble sweetness about which Solomon speaks.

e. Solomon suggests that truly wise men use sweetness in the presentation of wisdom.

4. Wisdom presented with sweetness is much more effective.

a. The book of Proverbs is FULL of words of wisdom. They are gems that can incorporate in our own lives and increase our own learning.

b. They are also to be shared with others.

c. But it matters HOW we present these gems.
• It is possible to present a gem like a wild-eyed mad man… whose body is shaking with intensity… and with an eerie shrill to the voice.
• That man will frighten his listeners and cause them to run away.
• That very same gem can be presented in sweetness, and it is much more likely to be received.
• Solomon is not talking about CHANGING the gem… candy coating truth…
• But rather he speaks of the sweetness of the lips that makes the listener WANT to hear… rather than run away.
• Even if the truth is a negative truth… a word of warning… it can be presented in such a way that the hearer knows you are trying to help him… not belittle him… or hurt him.
• Ex: telling a young child to stay off the road. You could say, “If you go in the road I’ll give you a whipping like you’ve never had before!” OR, “If you go in the road, you might get hurt… and we don’t want you to get hurt. We want you to be safe!”

d. It is possible to present wisdom and truth in such a way that it increases the appetite of the hearer for more…
• I’m sure we can all look back at our school days and remember a teacher that made learning exciting… sweet… enjoyable. Then I’m sure we can all remember a teacher that could make your favorite subject boring!
• This proverb instructs us to make learning enjoyable… pleasant… sweet…
• The result is an increase in learning. People learn more when the learning is enjoyable.
• And Solomon is not talking about turning school or Sunday school into a game time. Rather, he is speaking about the LIPS of the speaker and what flows out of them.
• People WANT to hear sweet words of discernment that come from a wise heart.
• When there is good knowledge in the head, is filtered through a wise heart, and flows off sweet lips… who wouldn’t want to hear?
• That kind of speech creates an appetite for learning… a thirst for more.
• Ps. 19:10 – God’s Word is sweet and thus TO BE DESIRED… thirsted after! More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.