Speak Seldomly So You Won’t Get High With a Big Stick!
My title today is a modification of President Teddy Roosevelt’s foreign policy slogan, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. Our focus today is what the Bible has to say about saying a lot of words. Let’s read Proverbs 17:26-28:
Also, to punish the righteous is not good, Nor to strike princes for their uprightness. 27 He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. 28 Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.
That last verse might sound familiar, or better yet, you might be aware of a more contemporary wording of the proverb that goes like this: “It is better to have someone think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Most of us like to talk. We like to think that we have something important to say. And perhaps we often do have important things to say. But the clear counsel of proverbs is to use our words sparingly. Verse 27 says that he who has knowledge spares his words. Perhaps this is clarified by the last half of that verse. The idea seems to be that if we not calm, we may begin to babble or speak words simply out of fear or anxiety. We’ve all used words as a means of calming ourselves or we’ve listened to people go on and on and on in a sort of “self-medicating” kind of way.
The counsel here is to be careful in how we use our words. The wise man/woman is often the one who waits to speak, until he/she has heard all the evidence, and then draws a conclusion that can be spoken clearly and concisely. The admonition to hold our tongues is a good one…and it might prevent you from being hit with a stick!