Proverbs 10:18-21, 31-32 – A fool and his words

wise in his own eyesThe character and speech of fools and the wicked is the subject of today’s devotional proverbs.  We will consider both the words and the manner of the fool.  For the sake of review, I will once again define the fool.

The man declared a fool in the Bible is not necessarily one who is intellectually deficient; in fact, he is often educated and shrewd [or in the plain language of the old South, he has “book learning, but not an ounce of common sense”].  Because he has rejected God [the fool says in his heart, There is no God” – Psalm 14:1], he also rejects God’s Law.  He is generally a man of immoral character. He is self-centered and self-willed.  He may be smart, but he is lacking in spiritual wisdom and insight.

Consider four proverbs that address the fool and his speech (Proverbs 10:18-21).

Proverbs 10:18-19 – He that hideth [conceals; covers] hatred [oppose; detests; despise] with lying [deceit; falsehood…but pretending to be a friend] lips [language; speech], and he that uttereth [spread; begotten; give birth to] a slander [evil report that defames the character of another], is a fool [stupid; silly]. 19 In the multitude a fool's words[abundance; much; many] of words [speech; advice; communication] there wanteth [cease; forbear] not sin [transgression; rebellion; guilt]: but he that refraineth [restrains; keep back; withhold; “bites his lips”] his lips [language; speech] is wise [understanding; prudent].”

Watch and listen to a man long enough and you know what manner of man he is [especially true of politicians who depart from their glass prompters and speak unscripted].  A fool will be known not only by his actions, but also by his words [i.e. speech].  A foolish man often pretends to be a friend, concealing his motives with lies while defaming the character of the righteous.  Rather than a wise man of few words, the lips of a fool are inevitably his own undoing [“…the mouth of the foolish is near destruction” – Proverbs 10:14b].

Proverbs 10:20-21 – The tongue [language; speech] of the just [righteous; lawful] is as choice [excellent; purified; cleansed from impurities; having great value] silver [i.e. silver coin; money]: the heart [mind; understanding] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty of breaking the law] is little worth [little value]. 21 The lips [language; speech] of the righteous [just; lawful] feed [guide; shepherd] many [great; much]: but fools [perverse; silly; immoral character] die for want [lack] of wisdom [void of spiritual discernment].

words of wise as silverProverbs 10:20-21 offers us the opportunity of considering the contrast between the words and counsel of the righteous and those of the wicked and foolish.  The tongue, literally the speech and counsel, of a righteous man is invaluable when seeking insight and direction.  Like a shepherd guiding his sheep to green pastures and fresh water (Psalm 23), the counsel of the wise man is pure, sincere and spiritually insightful.

The words of a fool, in contrast, tend to lead a man to ruin.  His counsel reflects his rejection of God and his immoral character infuses his words with perverseness (Mark 7:20-23).

Read Proverbs 10:31-32 as a concluding thought to the proverbial truths we have considered today.

Proverbs 10:31 – “The mouth [speech; utterance] of the just [righteous; lawful] bringeth forth [produces; utters; bears fruit] wisdom [shrewdness; skillful use of knowledge]: but the froward [perverse; swearing] tongue [speech; babbling; evil speaker] shall be cut out [cut down; destroyed; punished]. James 1.532 The lips [language; speech] of the righteous [just; lawful] know [perceive; understand; acknowledge; observe] what is acceptable [desired; delightful]: but the mouth [speech; utterance] of the wicked [ungodly; guilty of breaking the law] speaketh forwardness [perversity].”

Because a man’s character is evidenced in where and from whom he seeks counsel, I close with a departing question: “To whom do you turn for counsel and direction?”

Copyright 2015 – Travis D. Smith