Proverbs 17:27 – He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. (NASB)
I once knew a man who was fond of saying, "I would rather keep quiet and let people think I'm smart than open my mouth and show them how stupid I am." Barney Fife of The Andy Griffith Show never learned this lesson. His actions revealed that he thought of himself as an expert in every area.
What is it that makes us think that what we have to say is more important than someone else's thoughts? We like to compete with our words just as we do in other areas. We want our comments to provide the winning touch.
Today's proverb is one of many places in the Bible that speak of using few words and of using wisdom when formulating those words. The more we talk, the more likely we are to say something that should have been left unsaid. Running off at the mouth increases the chances we will get bogged down in gossip. People of few words may not be shy but may have simply learned to use their ears more than their tongue.
Our human tendency is to imagine that all our advice is good and worthy of sharing with others — whether they ask for it or not. This tendency can reveal a deeper issue: pride. In one of the many verses that rebuke this sin, Paul reminds us not to think too highly of ourselves:
Romans 12:3 – For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. (NASB)
This includes the advice we offer to others. Sometimes it is better just to listen and learn. We don't have to solve every problem nor be an expert in every subject that comes up. And truthfully, not everything we have to say is important.
Thinking before speaking gives us the opportunity to choose our words carefully. It helps us to avoid unkind words, which often flow when we speak in haste. Let us pray for God to give us wise words when someone has asked us for advice.
Prayer: Lord, help us to learn to use fewer words and to let them be filled with godly wisdom, encouragement, and kindness. Amen.
Listen to this devotional