A Wise Fool?
Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. (Proverbs 17:28)
Have you ever caught yourself, stopping just short of saying something that you might regret for the rest of your life? There is wisdom in showing restraint in our words, especially as we live during a time of tension and uncertainty.
The Book of Proverbs takes extraordinary pains to discuss the perils of a person who is incapable of controlling their tongue. This 17th chapter is no exception, and the title of “fool” is reserved for them, reflecting the state of their heart. Here are a few examples:
A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue. (v.4)
Arrogant lips are unsuited to a fool – how much worse lying lips to a ruler! (v. 7)
Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly. (v. 12)
A man of perverse heart does not prosper; he whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble. (v. 20)
The opposite of is to be careful with our words; to use them to build people up, rather than tear down. Such a person is called wise and reaps an expected harvest; respect of those around them.
A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue. (v. 27-28)
We live in a culture where we are told to “just say what you think.” It’s a world where verbal diarrhea is rewarded by followers in the Twittersphere. But this is not the way of wisdom, nor the path of a person who fears the Lord.
Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 12:34 and 36: For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks … But I tell you that you will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word you have spoken.
The wisdom of the Proverbs stands true; I’d rather run into a bear!