Man’s character is evidenced by his words. It has been said that if one keeps his mouth shut, people will think that he is a fool, but if opened, it removes all doubt. Solomon pointed out many contrasts between the words of a wise man and a fool. Self-control and slowness to speak when angry are marks of a wise person whereas, a foolish person is quick to express his thoughts. Words are like toothpaste—once they are “out of the tube,” they cannot be replaced. One may apologize and express sincere regret, but the damage has been done and may never be repaired. Solomon also contrasted diligence with laziness. “The hand of the diligent will rule, But the lazy man will be put to forced labor.”
There are more aspects to wisdom that merely acting upon one’s knowledge. “A wise son heeds his father’s instruction.” Wisdom even without worldly knowledge can lead a person to be industrious, righteous, humble and faithful. Also, a fool may possess enormous worldly knowledge, but be a scoffer, lazy, wicked, rich in worldly riches—but spiritually poor and proud. Much has been written and said about proper discipline for children. Solomon wrote, “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”
The wise man continued to show the differences between the wise and foolish. When a person opens his mouth, the fruits of his speech reveal whether he is wise or foolish. It is important that we refrain from scornful and hurtful words that can injure relationships beyond repair. Even though apologies are given, sometimes the scars from the pain last for a lifetime. One’s words should be truthful and edifying. “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” God’s ways are always the right ways and man has no right to try to change them. The wisdom of God leads man in the right way. That is true whether it involves an individual or a nation of people. “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people.”
A person’s tongue is one of the smallest members of the body, but it has the most influence. Foolish tongues have caused much heartache in the world, while the words from wise tongues have prevented and eased many sorrows. The words that are spoken determine ways of lives and courses of history. Solomon wrote, “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” The wise man added other gems of wisdom following these words and most of them involve the use of the tongue, either directly or indirectly. One’s heart is the source of emotions such as love, hatred and anger. Those emotions are then expressed by the wise or foolish use of the tongue. Taste your words before you speak them for you may have to eat them later.