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Explaining the Book

Bible Study Guide

Proverbs

Proverbs 13 3 Meaning

Let’s try to understand the meaning of Proverbs 13:3.

Proverbs 13 3 Meaning: Just recently – from the vantage point of my writing this – US President Donald Trump (and others) have mentioned that a certain anti-malarial medicine – chloroquine – might be effective in treating the dreaded worldwide pandemic COVID-19. The name of the drug happens to be similar to an ingredient in a product used to clean fish bowls – chloroquine phosphate. Subsequently, a man from Arizona and his wife thought it would be a good idea to eat this fish bowl cleaner in order to avoid getting infected with the coronavirus. Sadly, as a result the man died.

My point is not to assign blame to my president. Rather, it’s to highlight the fact that words have consequences. Your speech is an incredibly and amazingly powerful thing. And in Proverbs 13:3 the Lord wants to speak to us concerning our speech.

So, let’s read Proverbs 13:3.

KJV Proverbs 13:3 {He/The one} {that/who} {keepeth/guards} his {mouth/words/lips} {keepeth/preserves/guards} his life:

{but he/The one/but whoever } {that/who} {openeth wide his lips/is talkative/speaks rashly} {shall have destruction/comes to ruin/will come to ruin}.

Contrasts

The first thing to note in a Proverb is whether or not God is contrasting one thing with another. And in Proverbs 13:3 we discover that indeed, God is making contrasts and comparisons. So, what are the opposites that we find in Proverb 13:3?

Careful Speech vs. Careless Speech

First, we have the subject of each line of the proverb.

The subject of the first line is the person who guards his mouth or words. The subject of the second line in contrast is one who “opens wide his mouth” or is talkative or who speaks rashly.

The person in the first line is careful about what he says. He guards his words like an armed security guard – not letting any devious statement pass his watchful eye.

In contrast, the person in the second line is careless about his speech. He lets it all out. He says what’s on his mind – no matter whether it happens to be appropriate or not. There’s no filter on this man’s mouth.

So, the first item being contrasted in Proverbs 13:3 is the way in which a person speaks.

A Protected Life vs. a Ruined Life

The second contrast made in Proverbs 13:3 then is the outcome of the life of each type of person.

The outcome of the life of the person who guards his speech is that he keeps or preserves or guards his life. The outcome of the one who opens wide his mouth and lets everything out is that he comes to ruin.

It’s interesting that guarding your mouth or words – which are seemingly small matters – is akin to guarding your very life – which is about the greatest and most important matter one can think of in this world.

In contrast, the person who thinks little of the need to be cautious with his speech will so often in the end come to ruin. He will destroy his life with such little things as words.

Conclusion

How important it is to guard our speech. The Apostle James notes this in his New Testament letter. A small thing like the tongue is like a small fire that can set a whole forest – or continent – ablaze.

So, how are you treating your words? Are you being careless or are you guarding what you say? May the Lord help us to honor him by guarding our words and to thereby protect this one life he’s graciously given us to serve and worship his Son Jesus Christ.

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