Proverbs 10:21

ESV The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.
NIV The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense.
NASB The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of understanding.
CSB The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.
NLT The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.
KJV The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.

What does Proverbs 10:21 mean?

In the prior verse, Solomon compared "the tongue" of someone who speaks godly wisdom to precious silver. Here, a similar image implies that wise words lead other people to success. In contrast, those who ignore wisdom or speak against it suffer the consequences.

Just as a server of a huge banquet feeds many people so the righteous person feeds many by speaking good words. That can have a literal implication, in that wise advice can make others more stable and successful. There is also a spiritual facet to this idea. Food is necessary to sustain physical life, but words sourced in God are necessary to impart and sustain spiritual life, Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).

The apostle Peter referred to God's Word as producing the new birth. He writes in 1 Peter 1:23: "Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God." Jesus' disciples had seen him feed 5,000 people to their complete satisfaction, but they understood that His words were effective in feeding their souls. Simon Peter confessed, "You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). Christians can effectively feed many spiritually by sharing the words of eternal life with others.

The wicked person's words, on the other hand, cannot feed anybody, not even himself. Dealing in foolishness is a path to disaster (Proverbs 10:17, 27).
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