Proverbs 16:23

The Heart of the Wise

23a The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth

1. Heart: the inner man; the immaterial inner self; including the mind; will; heart; understanding; reflection.

2. Teacheth: to be prudent; be circumspect; wisely understand; prosper; insight. It is wisdom and insight which is a result of proper instruction.

a. Neh. 9:20 – God gave His Spirit to “instruct” (same term) the children of Israel in the wilderness. He taught them… often through Moses… The Lord gave them wisdom and understanding.

b. Ps. 32:8 – I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.

c. Josh. 1:8 – Then thou shalt have good “success” (same term). Meditating in the Word day and night would give them good understanding… prudence… wisdom. They would be TAUGHT or instructed in the ways of wisdom.

d. It is instruction that results in success; namely, wisdom and understanding are digested and then passed on!

e. The heart teaches the mouth.
• This is an interesting way to word the concept.
• It is as if the heart of man… the inner self is the teacher who instructs the mouth what to say.
• It is an interesting way of saying that whatever comes out of the mouth really originated in the heart of man.

3. This wording implies several things:

a. In light of the fact that all kinds of evils reside in our hearts, we need to use great care as to what we allow to come OUT of our mouths.
• The heart is the source of whatever comes out of our mouths… whether it is good or evil… wise or foolish.
• But it CAN be a source of wisdom!
• The inner man needs to think through what to say before just blurting things out. Use caution.
• Whatever wisdom God has taught you over the years; put it into practice in your speech.
• Let your heart TEACH your mouth before you speak.

b. It implies that the mouth will spout out all kinds of things that may not be wise.
• Therefore, it needs to be restrained… and instructed.
• Wise instruction restrains the mouth from much.
• Don’t just say whatever’s on your mind or in your heart. It’s not all worth repeating.
• Wise words don’t just come out of thin air. The mouth needs to be taught what to say… and what things are not worth saying.

c. Since our mouth speaks as it is instructed from our inner man, we are therefore responsible for what we say.
• Whatever our mouths say originates in our hearts. Therefore, we should THINK before we speak.
• Think first and then talk… think it through… and allow your inner self to teach your mouth what to say.
• Prov. 15:28 – He studies to answer; others don’t!
» Studies: meditates as in Josh. 1:8

4. There are a lot of things to meditate on and think about before we open our mouths.

a. A wise heart teaches the mouth WHEN to speak.
• Prov. 15:23 – In due season.
• THINK before you speak. Is this really the best TIME to say this?
• Would another time or another place or in another setting be more appropriate?
• Ecc. 3:1, 7 – a time to speak and a time to be quiet.
• A wise heart teaches the mouth WHEN to speak.

b. A wise heart teaches the mouth WHAT to say
• Prov. 24:26 – He says the right thing (honest; straightforward; upright).
• It might be the right time to speak up, and you might have the best of intentions, but it matters WHAT you say!
• Wisdom in the heart will teach the mouth WHAT to say… and what not to say.
• It is so easy for our words to be misunderstood… to be taken out of context… or to say something we didn’t mean to communicate.
• We need a wise heart to teach our mouths. Pray for wisdom!

c. A wise heart teaches the mouth HOW to speak
• Prov. 15:1 – a soft answer
• Our intentions may be good, our words may be accurate, the timing may be just right, but the MANNER in which we speak may undermine everything we are trying to communicate!
• A wise heart knows when to speak and what to say, and HOW to say it! (The right approach; attitude; spirit; etc.)

d. The man whose heart has taught his mouth this kind of wisdom is a great asset in the classroom, in the courts, in the business world, in the home, and in the local church.

e. In other words, this kind of wisdom can be put to use anywhere and for all kinds of good purposes.

23b And addeth learning to his lips.

1. Learning: Learning; teaching; insight; instruction; teaching; persuasiveness.

2. Prov.7:21 – it is translated “fair speech” and has the meaning of persuasiveness…

a. The harlot persuaded the young man to follow her… and she used persuasive speech.

b. She talked him into it… into doing something his conscience told him not to do.

c. Speech can be extremely persuasive… convincing… influential…

3. Some translations have translated the word “learning” as persuasive.

a. NAS: The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips.

b. GBN: Intelligent people think before they speak; what they say is then more persuasive.


a. Defined: to add; increase; to join to; to gain more…

b. It is used of the Lord adding sons to Jacob and Rachel, a field increasing in fruitfulness, of Solomon increasing the tax burden, of the years of one’s life being increased, — it speaks of increase in almost any realm.

c. Solomon uses it of increasing in wisdom and understanding… gaining more and more.

d. Prov. 1:5 – A wise man will hear, and will increase learning (learning = same word as learning in 16:23)

5. Adding learning:

a. The man whose heart is continually instructing his mouth in the ways of wisdom will become an INCREASINGLY persuasive speaker.
• Of course this is all figurative language. It is not really the MOUTH that learns or the LIPS that are persuasive. It is the MAN and his speech.
• Solomon’s point is that the more careful and diligent a man is at using wisdom and speaking wisely, the better he becomes at it!
• His ability to communicate, to persuade, and to convince his hearers increases over time.
• After years of being careful about what he says and how he says it, this mouth increases in his persuasiveness.
→ He has learned when to speak and when to be still.
→ He has learned what to say and what not to say.
→ He has learned the right way to word something so that it is not immediately rejected.
→ He has learned to season his speech with salt… with grace.
→ He has learned the art of good reasoning…

b. Over time, his speech becomes wiser and wiser… more and more persuasive.

c. That is why wisdom is often associated with age… because an older man or woman has had more years to ADD learning to his lips.

6. When a wise man speaks, we do well to listen.

a. Prov. 22:17 – bow down thine ear and hear the words of the wise.

b. This is good advice for all of us… to LISTEN when words of wisdom are spoken… whether from a parent, a teacher at school, a mature believer in the faith, a Sunday school teacher…

c. Prov. 22:18 – when you hear those words of wisdom from a wise man, KEEP them in your belly! And then you too will increase in learning… and you too can teach your lips! And the process goes on and on… from generation to generation.

d. The wisdom of which Solomon speaks here is not necessarily the wisdom of one well trained in schools of theology.
• Rather, he speaks of those mouths and lips that have been taught by the heart… by a heart that has been taught by God.
• A man or woman who may have received precious little schooling or formal education, but who has walked with God for many years… whose heart has been beating in tune with God… whose ear has been listening to God… whose feet have been in step with God… the heart filled with the fullness of God… a heart that has been abiding in heavenly places and communion within the veil in that heavenly sanctuary for many years… — this man or woman will have lips worth listening to!
• Perhaps we have all known older believers who (regardless of their educational background)… have had a deep and abiding relationship to the Lord… and wisdom and discernment just flow off their lips…
• It might be in broken, battered English… but it is wisdom from God nonetheless… because it came from a heart that has spent TIME with God.
• That is because their heart TAUGHT their lips… and their hearts had been for many decades abiding in Christ… and Christ in Him… unto all riches of the full understanding (Col. 2:2-3)
• It is such a great LOSS to the local church to lose older, mature believers through death.
• Their value to the local church is immeasurable.

e. Col. 3:16 – let the word richly dwell in your heart… and teach others the wisdom you are learning! LEARN from the Word, and teach your lips to teach others!

f. I Pet. 3:15 – the best way to teach our lips words of wisdom is to give the Lord first place in our heart.
• HE is our wisdom… HE is the source of any wisdom that might come out of our mouths.
• Sanctify HIM in your heart.
• Then your heart will be able to teach your lips.
• That’s the first step to wise speech.