“The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.” (Proverbs 10:31-32)
A mother cautions her child twice before going to school, “Don’t forget to bring your textbooks home to do your homework.” She repeats her reminder to emphasize the importance of it. A teacher tells a class three times that sometime this week there will be a pop quiz, so his students will be ready for it when it comes. God repeats his precepts in Scripture to emphasize the importance of them. In Proverbs 10:31-32, the wise person’s mouth and lips are righteous and the fool’s tongue and mouth are perverse. Verses 20-21 of the same chapter seem to be bookends with verses 31-32: “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.” Combining all four verses the tongue, mouth, and lips of the righteous are valuable, feed many, bring forth wisdom as fruit, and know what is acceptable—because they are belong to the believer who loves God.
Perversity is the opposite of wisdom. According to the dictionary in Word perversity means “showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences.”Synonyms for perversity includes deviant, irrational, and rebellious. A perverse person goes against God; a wise person submits to God’s authority and desires, agreeing with God. The mouth, tongue, and lips are the gateway of the truth emanating from our hearts; whatever we believe and desire in our hearts will make its way through these orifices eventually.
The most poignant specimen of an obdurate individual is the prophet Balaam. (See Numbers 22.) In summary, King Balak of Moab commanded Balaam to curse Israel. Balaam should have immediately refused, but instead told Balak’s messengers to stay overnight while he inquired of the Lord. Then he did refuse. So Balak sent more lofty princes, promising Balaam “great honor” if he were to agree to their request. Again, Balaam should have refused, knowing that God did not want him to curse Israel. However, Balaam told the men to stay overnight once again, hinting that all the silver and gold in the king’s palace could not convince him to curse Israel (vs. 15-18). Balaam’s behavior was hypocritical and perverse, acting as if he were refusing but all the while holding out for the best profit.
While it may seem hard to understand why God told Balaam not to submit to King Balak’s request and then told him to go with the men, we know the end of the story. Sometimes God’s uses our sin for his glory. God used a donkey to open Balaam’s eyes to the angel of the Lord who confronted him. “And the angel of the Lord said to him…Behold, I have come out to oppose you because your way is perverse before me… Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, ‘I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me” (vs. 32, 34). In the end God was glorified because Balaam was compelled to bless, not curse Israel. Godly wisdom always overcomes perversity.
How will God be glorified through your lips, tongue, and mouth today? Let us not think we can “get away with” the appearance of wisdom, but truly align our hearts with God’s. Our speech will follow, bringing forth righteous fruit.