This is a guest post by Rich Powell, pastor of Grace Bible Church in Winston Salem, NC. You can find out more about him here or hear his expositions of Scripture at gbcnc.org. This post is reprinted with the gracious permission of the author.
Imagine having to endure a week with no running water and no convenient source of water. Imagine having to even hunt for water. Common in Scripture is the imagery of a spring or a well as a source of refreshment in an arid land. Great would be the disappointment of a polluted spring or a dried up well.
We are surrounded by thirsty people and this Proverb speaks of the mouth as a source of reviving drink. It is not just any mouth, however, but the mouth of the righteous. When the righteous opens his mouth, what comes out issues from a heart inclined toward God. God Himself is the “fountain of living water,” and as we drink deep from the river of His pleasures (Ps. 36:8) we become a source of refreshment to others. The mouth, more than just an organ of speech, manifests one’s character and disposition (Luke 6:45). Jesus painted a clear picture of this when He declared: Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ (John 7:38).
As the Christian speaks to another, what is described in this proverb is more than just positive air. The righteous speaks that which is morally strengthening, intellectually elevating, and inwardly reviving– words of encouragement, grace, and hope because it comes from the nature of God that resides within. The antithesis: “violence covers the mouth of the wicked,” is to issue deceitful words that conceal the ambition of self-advantage – words that spew out of the polluted spring of self-preeminence. All such communication has its origin in the Father of lies.
We can gleam from this proverb a clear exhortation and some profound encouragement. Judge every word you speak: does it proceed from the mind of Christ or does it betray a deep seated selfishness? Remember this: your mouth is a powerful instrument to benefit others. Do not dam it up or let the well go dry. As you delight in the Lord, open up the floodgates and refresh your thirsty neighbor.