A fool utters all his mind: but a wise man keeps it in till afterwards.
There is a time to keep silence as well as a time to speak (see Ecclesiastes 3:7). According to our individual temperament we need the one injunction or the other. There are few, however, of either sex or of any disposition who do not need to be urged to guard the door of the lip. This is one of those things in which we all offend in our time and in our way. Impatience most frequently leads to transgression; but there are other provocations - there are other occasions when the warning word is wanted. We should carefully command our tongue when there is in our mind -
I. THE IDEA OF ACHIEVEMENT. It is unwise to talk of what we are going to do as soon as it occurs to us to act. We may think ourselves capable or our circumstances favourable when, on further consideration or inquiry, we find that we are not equal to the task or that our position makes it impossible to us. We should think before we undertake.
II. THE THOUGHT OF IGNORANCE. Nothing but harm can come of counsel given in ignorance of any case before us. Either we persuade our friends and colleagues to take action which is unwise and will prove to be injurious and possibly disastrous; or we are at once corrected by those who know better, and we are ashamed. Do not go to the council without learning the facts and understanding the matter, or else wait well and learn patiently before you speak at all.
III. THE FEELING OF RESENTMENT. "A fool uttereth all his anger, but a wise man keepeth it back and stilleth it" (Revised Version; Proverbs 12:16). Nothing more distinctly marks the presence of wisdom or folly than the habit of speaking quickly or restraining speech under provocation. It is an unfailing criterion. The reasons for silence at such a time are obvious enough, and they should be strong enough.
1. Hasty speech is
(1) very likely indeed to be incorrect, imperfect, if not wholly wrong, for our judgment is sure to be disturbed and unhinged when our spirit is wounded;
(2) most likely to provoke our opponent to feel strongly and to strike severely, and thus the flood gates of strife are opened;
(3) unworthy of the wise and strong, lowering in the eyes of our best friends and in our own regard;
(4) condemned of God (James 1:19, 20).
2. Conscientious silence under provocation is
(1) an admirable victory over our lower nature (ch. 16:32);
(2) the way of peace in the council, in the home, in the Church;
(3) the path in which we follow Christ our Lord, and gain his Divine approval (Matthew 27:12; Matthew 6:9). - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.