Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 16:21
"The wise in heart will be called understanding, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness."
This is the Hebrew word bin, which means to understand, have insight, see connections, perceive. This is the ability to penetrate beneath the surface and begin seeing why things really happen and how things are connected.
sweetness of speech
The word sweetness is the word meteq, which means sweet or delightful to the taste. It is used of honey and date syrup in the Scripture.
The word speech is the Hebrew word sapa, which means lip, language, speech. The lips are the vehicle of communicating speech.
The word translated persuasiveness here is the Hebrew word leqah, which is the word for learning. This word appears nine times in the Old Testament. It means to add to or increase. it comes from a root which means to take, seize, or lay hold of.
The idea here clearly seems to be that the penetration of one's lessons will go much deeper into a person if the lessons are conveyed with kindness rather than roughness. A pleasant encouraging environment is much more conducive to learning than one in which there is tension, even hatred.
Let me apply this to real situations. Parents want to instruct their child about dangers to avoid or correct something. If the lesson is communicated in the heat of anger or alarm, the instruction will not go as deep into the child's soul. I am regularly saddened by some parents’ preferred method of instruction. They wait until something goes wrong and then there is stern lecturing; there is often shouting; there is punishment. At some point the child is just enduring this barrage. Think through the lessons that you want to communicate and talk about them with kindness and pleasantness before they happen. If a child has violated a rule in a particular area, try and give yourself some time to calm down before you try and instruct the child. Have your emotions firmly in control before you begin the process.
This is the same in the work place. Don't try and emotionally intimidate your colleagues or subordinates and believe that this is the best instruction method. Kindness or sweetness of speech allows the penetration of the lessons to go deeper.
What God is saying through the mouth of Solomon is that when one takes the time to think about what one is trying to communicate, there is usually a better way to say it than the initial or emotional way you want to say it.
First, examine if you are saying it from only your perspective and how it would benefit you or your reaction to a particular thing. Sweetness of speech would include the idea of talking about a thing from the perspective of your hearers. They have a personal or even selfish perspective. If you can talk about the information in a way that answers their questions or meets their needs, it will go deeper into their minds.
A note to preacher: this is the business you are in -- adding sweetness of speech to the power and truth of the Scriptural lessons. Your job is not just to explain the Scripture but to answer the questions. How can I get these vital truths to penetrate deeper into their hearts and minds? How can I get them to take action on biblical principles? Think about communicating the same information in a variety of ways that will penetrate deeper. Sweetness in this case means answering the questions that people are asking, not explaining something that you are interested in.