, Wise Versus Foolish Responses, Servants of Grace

Editors note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what discipleship is and how to embrace the Cross of Christ in all of life.

Proverbs 29:11 CJB, “A fool gives vent to all his feelings, but the wise, thinking of afterwards, stills them.”

Things have been a bit rough lately at work. The opportunity to spill out with angry words in response to the actions or even perceived actions of others seems to know no end. Let’s just say it has been a target rich environment of late with plenty of opportunities to practice wisdom with my tongue. Unfortunately, my tendency has been to behave on what Scripture would label as foolishness rather than in wisdom.

It is truly a difficult thing to think before you speak. Blurting out the first thing that comes to our minds is all too often the modus operandi of how we relate to one another. This is especially true in the heat of the moment, more so during those times when we have reached what we believe to be our wits end.

Admit it. We all have that maddening supervisor, co-worker, family member, or that individual that apparently never had demonstrated by the car salesperson what that wonderful thing called a turn signal is all about. We should also all admit (I have my hand raised high) that our response to such individuals is typically an unrighteous, foolish retort, something that seems to be a clever quip but is really nothing more than utter and shameful foolishness.

What does this tendency towards foolish behavior reveal in our lives? According to Proverbs 29:11, the fool gives vent to all his feelings. What does it mean to vent or utter all ones feelings? The answer can be found in the meaning of the Hebrew verb yatsa which means “to go out or go forth.” Of particular interest is the association of this particular verb with plants and planting. If we think about this for a second, the idea of emotional responses being something that germinates within our hearts which then sprouts forth from our mouth should make perfect sense. Uttering forth all your feelings foolishly is a practiced behavior, one that has its source in foolishness being rooted in your heart. Foolish responses are like weeds that sprout up immediately from a spiritually untilled soil.

The wise have a grasp of how to control their tongue. I love how the CJB states the last portion of Proverbs 29:11 – the wise, thinking of afterwards, stills them. When we dig a bit into some word meanings, the wise response becomes ever clearer. The Hebrew verb translated as stills or keeps is shabach meaning “to soothe, still, stroke.” The idea of calm and self-control is quite clear. Furthermore, the wise when pondering their response think of more than just the heat of the moment. They think of afterwards, specifically the impact and consequences of their words. This brings a whole new meaning to the old adage “think before you speak.”

So the next time you are tempted to lash out in anger, please keep Proverbs 29:11 in mind. It is many times far wiser to zip the lip than to foolishly let whatever comes to your mind slip out from your lips. Is being wise in this area of your life difficult? You bet it is! Is it vital that we grow in wisdom in this area of our lives? You bet it is! Perhaps this is why we should constantly be in a posture of prayer, constantly washing ourselves in the cleansing water of God’s Word, and always consuming the life-giving power of God’s Word. As we absorb what it means to be wise as outlined in Scripture, the Holy Spirit will till the soil of our hearts, uprooting the foolishness that so often results in diarrhea of the mouth. It is a must that we grow in this area of life as foolish words are like sharp barbs that tear apart and destroy relationships.

Be wise and ponder your words!