A Wise Proverb
“The very lips of the righteous one keep pasturing many, but for want of heart the foolish themselves keep dying.”—Prov. 10:21.
At first it might appear that this proverb is basically about how one uses the tongue, but its point actually goes deeper. It has to do with what one is at heart and how this affects things.
The person who senses his spiritual need and strives both to satisfy it and to live in accord with it is a blessing to those around him. He appreciates Jehovah’s counsel and principles. This is evident by how and why he uses his lips.
How, though, does “the righteous one keep pasturing many”? Some Bible translations render this, ‘keep “feeding” others.’ But the Hebrew word that is used here conveys more meaning than just “feeding.” It carries the thought of guiding as well as nourishing, much as an ancient shepherd cared for his sheep. (1 Sam. 16:11; Ps. 23:1-3; Song of Sol. 1:7) This is how it is with the righteous person. He guides or leads others to the way of virtue and righteousness, his speech nourishing the hearers. As a result, they can lead happier, more satisfying lives. And they may receive everlasting life.
What a contrast there is, though, with the person in “want of heart”! He shows a lack of good motive or little care about the consequences of his course. Do you not know of many like that, whose outlook on life is ‘Well, just let the chips fall where they may’? Such a person does just whatever he wants, oblivious of the future results. Because he ignores considering the penalties of his course, he often winds up as a victim to them. While the righteous one helps to keep others alive, the person in want of heart cannot keep even himself alive.