Proverbs 25:11 – “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
A proverbial statement might be defined as a short, meaningful saying that expresses a significant, substantial truth for life. In the book of the Proverbs, a proverb is often constructed with two lines, presenting a comparison or contrast. Proverbs 25:11 presents a truth of comparison. Indeed, an appropriate word is as beautiful and blessed as golden apples displayed in adornments of silver.
The comparison of this proverb presents an illustrative picture concerning “apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Certainly, apples made of gold would present a beautiful sight. Even more, such apples of gold arranged and displayed within pictures and adornments of silver would present a very beautiful and blessed sight to the beholders. What a pleasant sight this brings to our imagination!
Yet this beautiful, blessed, pleasing sight is not presented for its own sake. Rather, it is presented in order to illustrate the spiritual value of “a word fitly spoken.” Indeed, the spiritual content of this proverb concerns the manner in which we speak. Even so, being compared to “apples of gold in pictures of silver,” we are brought to understand that “a word fitly spoken” is spiritually beautiful and blessed to the hearts of those who receive it.
So then, what is “a word fitly spoken”? This phrase itself reveals three characteristics. First, such is a fitting and appropriate word. It is a word that is founded upon the wisdom of God’s Word. As such, it is a word that is truly “good to the use of edifying.” (Ephesians 4:29) Yea, it is a word that is truly healthy and helpful for the spiritual benefit of another. Second, such is a word that is spoken fittingly, in a fitting and appropriate manner. It is a word that is formulated in Spirit-filled graciousness and meekness. As such, it is a word that is motivated by godly love and that ministers God’s grace to the hearers. (See Ephesians 4:15, 29) Yea, it is not a word of grievousness or contentiousness. It is not a word that engenders strife. Rather, it is a word that is filled with Spirit-filled gentleness, patience, meekness, and humility. Third, such is a word that is actually fitting and appropriate for that moment. It is a word that is fitted with a wise understanding and discernment for the circumstance. As such, it is the right word, spoken in the right manner at the right time.
Proverbs 25:11 is in the midst of a eight verse sequence of proverbial statements concerning the character of our communication. “Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame. Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another: lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away. A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear. As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters. Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain. By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.” (Proverbs 25:8-15) To this Proverbs 25:18 adds, “A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.”
Thereby we learn much concerning words that are not “fitly spoken” and concerning words that are indeed “fitly spoken.” On the one hand, we learn that words of strife (v. 8), words of gossip (v. 9), words of vain boasting (v. 14), and words of false witness (v. 18) are not those within the category of “a word fitly spoken.” On the other hand, we learn that words of wise reproof (v. 12), words of truth and faithfulness (v. 13), and words of forbearance and graciousness (v. 15) are those that are within the category of “a word fitly spoken.”
So then, we ourselves must examine our communication whether it is spiritually beautiful and blessed in the sight of our Lord and unto those that hear it. Wherein it is found not to be so, let us repent of this sinful behavior. Wherein it is found to be spiritually beautiful and blessed, let us thank the Lord for the gracious help of His Holy Spirit to bridle our tongue aright.
Furthermore, we must examine our communication according to the standard of God’s own Word on the matter. We must recognize that our Lord’s Word establishes a righteous standard of wisdom, love, truthfulness, faithfulness, forbearance, graciousness, and meekness for our communication. We must also recognize that our Lord’s word forbids the characteristics of strife, gossip, pride, boasting, and deception in our communication.