“To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.”
Explanation and Commentary of Proverbs 16:1
Though this statement is a little bit difficult to understand, most scholars agree that the meaning is that while we humans make our plans, including what we are going to say in a given situation, it is God who inspires the words. Jesus told his disciples that when they were dragged into court for preaching his name, they did not need to have anything prepared, because the Holy Spirit would give them the words when they were needed (Lk 21:14).
To apply this today to everyday life, abide in Christ in everything you do (Jn 15:4). Situations will arise. If you belong to Jesus, he will put you in situations to be used by him, and he will give you the words to say. Peter said to be prepared to give a reason for your hope when you are asked (1 Pt 3:15), but that doesn’t contradict what the Lord said or what this Proverb says. You can be prepared just by continuing to abide in Christ.
It is very hard to respond rightly if we are not full of the presence of God. To walk unconsciously of our faith is to be blindsided by situations where sin takes over and does the talking. Those are the very times when we need God to speak through us. When we are angry, afraid, or invited to participate in sinful speech, we must have God’s Holy Spirit moving through us and out of our mouth. Be filled, and walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16), and God will give the answer.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Proverbs 16:1
#1 “To humans belong…”
As image-bearers of God with delegated authority, things belong to us, and yet we also know that we are stewards. We know that all that belongs to us, belongs first to God.
#2 “…the plans of the heart,”
The heart is the seat of the soul and the emotions. If it is full of God, given to God, then it is trustworthy. If it is not, then it is “deceitful above all things” (Jer 17:9). In the sense presented here, it is the place where our dreams and plans are lodged.
#3 “but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.”
The proper answer from the Lord can come in advance because we have access to the Word of God which tells us how to answer. It can also come at the moment that it is needed because we are filled with the Holy Spirit.
Expert Overview of Proverbs
Biblical Translations of Proverbs 16:1
To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.
We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer.
The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.
The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.