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The Speech of Fools and Wise Men

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 (Prov 29:20) and speaks his mind instead of listening and learning, bringing about his ruin (Prov 10:8, 10, 14). He delights in expressing his own opinions (Prov 18:2) and exercises no control, holding nothing back (Prov 29:11). He pours out words full of foolishness and void of knowledge (Prov 14:7; 15:2, 7). His foolish words stem from the foolishness in his heart (Prov 12:23).

His foolish words are crooked (Prov 19:1), filled with slander (Prov 10:18) and quarreling (Prov 20:3), and he is entertained and angered when presented with wisdom (Prov 29:9). His words bring about difficulty in general (Prov 18:7) and even physical retaliation (Prov 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 (Prov 24:7). In fact, his wisdom is best shown when he remains silent (Prov 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 (Prov 26:7, 9).

The Speech of the Wise in Proverbs

Wise speech comes from the Lord (Prov 2:2) and lodges itself in the heart of those who would be wise (Prov 2:10). A wise man speaks wisdom in general (Prov 10:31), spreading his knowledge to others (Prov 15:7). His words are persuasive in their wisdom (Prov 16:21), being carefully contemplated in his heart before they leave his mouth (Prov 16:23). His words are those to which all should listen (Prov 22:17).

He speaks when necessary (Prov 10:19), sometimes responding to foolishness and sometimes not (Prov 26:4–5; 29:9), exercising self-control (Prov 29:11) and keeping peace when he chooses to speak (Prov 14:3). When he reproves someone who listens and heeds his wisdom, his words bring healing to the listener (Prov 12:18) and encouragement to all who observe (Prov 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.

About David Huffstutler

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, serves as a chaplain for his local police department, and teaches as adjunct faculty at Bob Jones University. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.