From the fruit of a man’s mouth he enjoys good, but the desire of the treacherous is violence
Solomon noticed that it is not essentially a man’s talent or ability that causes him to prosper but his people skills. That is what this nugget on wisdom tells us. You can have tremendous abilities, talents, and gifts; but if you are a jerk, you will not succeed. We must all learn how to talk to other people in a positive and constructive way. It is what you say that causes people to want to be around you.
One of the studies that consistently strikes me was done a number of years ago. Engineering firms were asked to rate what were the causes for engineers to be hired, retain their job, and get promoted. Their findings were that 85% of an engineer’s ability to be hired, retain their position, and be promoted was their people skills – their ability to work with others. It was not their technical skills or brilliance at math; it was people skills, the ability to work on a team, the general likability factors that are considered soft sciences. If this is true for engineers, then it is even truer for all other professions. It is, as Solomon says, in the mouth that a person enjoys good.
There are two verses in Scripture which push this analogy further: Proverbs 1:31 They shall eat the fruit of their own way and Hosea 10:13 You have plowed wickedness and have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies. This sentiment is very similar to the statements of God in Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap.
Watch what you say and how you say it. Learn how to be positive, helpful, constructive, and encouraging. Let me remind you that any idiot can point out things that are wrong with others or their work. NO one responds to that unless it comes from a boss and even then it is usually resented. It is recognition of the strengths and successes of another person that is most appreciated and remembered. It is the fruit of a person’s mouth that will produce what a person lives off even if that person is not a salesman. We often think that only sales people have to speak well or be positive when they really want to tear into someone. But this is not true. It is a principle of life that Solomon shares here. He even says it stronger than the translators. The original Hebrew states that the fruit of one’s mouth is what a person eats. If you do not use your mouth for the right things, you will not eat well.
One of the things I try and stress to my children is that we must know how to get along with all kinds of people. We do not need to point out everything we disagree with a person about. In fact, we are usually better off not to focus on where we disagree with a person. We should look to see where we agree with a person; where we can connect with others. There will be time to talk about where we disagree. When it comes to that, it will be better received if we have a history of looking for the places of agreement. This is one of the dangers in our current culture. We attack not just the ideas of people we disagree with but the whole person. It is entirely possible for a person to hold a wrong notion about something and to still be worthy of human dignity. But our society has become hardened into camps which cannot see anything good in the other person who has a different perspective on certain ideas.
but the desire of the treacherous is violence
The word translated desire is the word nephesh which means soul. The idea here is that the deceitful, treacherous person internally thinks only of what he wants. They cannot divert what they want from occupying their mind. It seems foreign to think about what other people want or need. It is abhorrent for them to think about giving up what they may want in order to help someone else get what they need.
The word treacherous is the Hebrew word bagad which means transgressor, unfaithful, deceitful. It is clearly a person who regularly goes outside the boundaries of the Ten Commandments to accomplish what he wants. He finds no limit in these moral guidelines from God. He deceives others about his having crossed them in order to have them believe that he is playing by the rules that they have to abide by. But he does not live by any rules but “I want what I want.” Therefore he does violence to others.
This is contrasted to those who produce fruit from their words for others. The one is selfish to the core. The other is a servant and a lover of others through kindness, goodness, and civility to others.
The word translated violence is the Hebrew word chamac which means violence, cruelty, wrong, damage, injustice. What Solomon is saying about the person who deceives with their words is that following behind them is a wake of damage and destruction. These people use words to get what they want, but it produces violence and destruction. The righteous person instead produces fruit that they themselves and others feed off.
What are the results of your words and speech patterns? Health, energy, joy and relationships or damage, hurt feelings, emotional bruises, feeling used. One person produces words that are edifying and helpful; the other deceives people to get what he wants. The second person does not care that what they want will hurt others and leave a trail of destruction. These people just want what they want.
* This material is copyrighted © by Gil Stieglitz who retains all rights to the material. The verses quoted are taken from the NASB Bible 1995 edition.