His topic was racial tension. Yet the speaker remained calm and collected. Standing on stage before a large audience, he spoke boldly—but with grace, humility, kindness, and even humor. Soon the tense audience visibly relaxed, laughing along with the speaker about the dilemma they all faced: how to resolve their hot issue, but cool down their feelings and words. Yes, how to tackle a sour topic with sweet grace.
King Solomon advised this same approach for all of us: “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). In this way, “The hearts of the wise make . . . their lips promote instruction” (v. 23).
Why would a powerful king like Solomon devote time to addressing how we speak? Because words can destroy. During Solomon’s time, kings relied on messengers for information about their nations, and calm and reliable messengers were highly valued. They used prudent words and reasoned tongues, not overreacting or speaking harshly, no matter the issue.
We all can benefit by gracing our opinions and thoughts with godly and prudent sweetness. In Solomon’s words, “To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the
Why does Proverbs 16:1 contrast “plans of the heart” with “the proper answer of the tongue”? Consider Jesus’ response when the Pharisees asked Him why His disciples broke rabbinical tradition by not washing their hands (Matthew 15:1–2). Jesus knew that our problem isn’t in keeping rules, but in making our hearts pure. He reminded them, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’ ” (vv. 7–8; see also Isaiah 29:13). Jesus added, “The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts” (Matthew 15:18–19). Proverbs tells us that “motives are weighed by the L