Proverbs 16:23

ESV The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
NIV The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction.
NASB The heart of the wise instructs his mouth And adds persuasiveness to his lips.
CSB The heart of a wise person instructs his mouth; it adds learning to his speech.
NLT From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive.
KJV The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.

What does Proverbs 16:23 mean?

The statement here pairs with verse 21 (Proverbs 16:21) and the following proverb (Proverbs 16:24). In fact, the teaching contained here rephrases the same idea taught in verse 21. An important facet of wisdom is knowing how to speak, not merely what to say. Careful choice of words impacts how well those words are received (Proverbs 15:1; Colossians 4:6). Truly wise people use helpful words in a helpful manner. Such a person not only speaks truth, but he also "makes his speech judicious." This phrase is also translated as "instructs his mouth." The emphasis is on controlling one's tongue—not always an easy task (James 1:26; 3:5–8).

Solomon urged his son to heed wise words so he would understand the fear of the Lord, avoid evil, and experience the Lord's protection (Proverbs 2). The Lord Jesus employed wise, persuasive speech when He taught the multitudes and His disciples. On one occasion, Jesus asked His disciples if they would leave Him. Simon Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68–69). John 7:45 relates that officers, sent by the chief priests and Pharisees to arrest Jesus, returned without Jesus. When the chief priests and Pharisees asked why they did not bring Jesus, the officers replied, "No one ever spoke like this man" (John 7:46). Those who speak truth in a winsome way have a profound influence on others.
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