Below is a very brief array of verses in Proverbs that describes the speech of fools and wise men. The verses below were chosen for explicitly mentioning the fool or his foolishness in speech and the wise man or his wisdom in speech as well. Many more verses on speech from the Proverbs could be added, to be sure.
These are good reminders for all of us, and you can profit the most by looking up these verses for yourself, meditating on them, and hiding them in heart. May these descriptions and admonitions take root in us in our attempt to live out Ephesians 4:29: “You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear” (ESV).
The Speech of a Fool in Proverbs: A fool is hasty to speak (29:20) and speaks his mind instead of listening and learning, bringing about his ruin (10:8, 10, 14). He delights in expressing his own opinions (18:2) and exercises no control, holding nothing back (29:11). He pours out words full of foolishness and void of knowledge (14:7; 15:2, 7). His foolish words stem from the foolishness in his heart (12:23).
His foolish words are crooked (19:1), filled with slander (10:18) and quarreling (20:3), and he is entertained and angered when presented with wisdom (29:9). His words bring about difficulty in general (18:7) and even physical retaliation (14:3; 18:6).
Because he is so characterized by foolishness in his speech, he is assumed to have nothing to offer when wisdom is needed (24:7). In fact, his wisdom is best shown when he remains silent (17:28). Even if he were to say something wise, his characteristic foolishness would make this momentary oracle of wisdom of no influence and even difficult to hear in light of his reputation (26:7, 9).
The Speech of the Wise in Proverbs: Wise speech comes from the Lord (2:2) and lodges itself in the heart of those who would be wise (2:10). A wise man speaks wisdom in general (10:31), spreading his knowledge to others (15:7). His words are persuasive in their wisdom (16:21), being carefully contemplated in his heart before they leave his mouth (16:23). His words are those to which all should listen (22:17).
He speaks when necessary (10:19), sometimes responding to foolishness and sometimes not (26:4–5; 29:9), exercising self-control (29:11) and keeping peace when he chooses to speak (14:3). When he reproves someone who listens and heeds his wisdom, his words bring healing to the listener (12:18) and encouragement to all who observe (25:12).
How much more could grace reign among us if our words were consistently wise! Let us strive towards uttering grace into the ears of others with every word we say.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.