In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.
Your degree of folly or wisdom is known by your speech. A man with understanding has wise speech that helps others; a man without understanding speaks foolishly and benefits no one. You cannot hide your character for long. You cannot deceive others forever. You will be exposed (Pr 26:26; Eccl 5:3; 10:3). And if your speech indicates you are a fool, the best treatment for you in the wisdom of God is a good beating (Pr 18:6; 26:3).
Notice the proverb closely. The first clause identifies a man with understanding as one who speaks wisely. The second clause gives the instruction to beat the man who does not have understanding. The parallelism of the proverb teaches two principal lessons: (1) your speech proves whether you have understanding or not, and (2) corporal punishment is appropriate for those who speak foolishly or frowardly. The ellipsis – missing words – at the end of the second clause, “and speaks foolishly,” is understood by the first clause.
God and Solomon gave you precious wisdom. Here is advice for life on how to measure the hearts of men and also how to treat them. Good men with wise hearts convey knowledge, godly counsel, and sound wisdom; and they do it in a gracious and loving way. Fools with profane hearts babble about their opinions and little problems in life; they complain about most everything; and they do it in an odious and irritating manner.
What precious wisdom! Wicked persons love to say, “You do not know my heart. I am a good person. I have understanding.” But these are lying excuses to justify their ungodly speech and/or actions. One of the chief lessons of Proverbs is to identify character by speech (Pr 10:19,21,32; 12:13; 14:3,7; 15:7; 16:2; 17:7,27-28; 18:7; Eccl 10:12). The Lord Jesus Christ also emphasized this definite connection (Matt 12:33-37).
Reader! Does your speech prove you a fool or a wise man? It is easy to tell. Can you justify your speech from the Bible? Do you have more friends than you can manage? Do others hold you in high esteem? Do others often seek your advice? If you can answer all four questions positively, you are a wise man. If several of the questions get negative answers, you are a fool! Confess your folly to God. Beg Him for help to control your lips.
Reader! Do others consider you gracious or odious, kind or cutting, helpful or hurtful, cheerful or critical, sober or sarcastic, loving or laughing, judicious or jesting? Honest answers to these contrasts reveal your character. Humble yourself before God. Cut your words in half. Cut your volume in half. Do not speak without something important to say. Study before you speak. Be gracious and positive, always! Praise someone, now!
Your degree of worldliness or spirituality is also known by your speech. It is easy to be an enemy of Jesus Christ – all you have to do is care about the things of this world (Matt 6:24; Phil 3:18-19; Jas 4:4; I John 2:15-17). How can you spot an enemy of Jesus Christ? Listen. They talk about jobs or business, health, politics, or current events. Though you listen carefully, you never hear Christ praised, doctrine exalted, or fervent thanksgiving.
Furthermore, your degree of love or hatred for others is revealed by your words. If you love other saints, which is the greatest evidence of eternal life, you will always be saying good things to them, for them, and about them. The person who is often guilty of backbiting, complaining, slandering, talebearing, or whispering is not only a fool, but also a child of the devil (John 8:44; I Cor 3:3; Titus 3:3; Jas 3:14-18; I John 3:1-19).
Corporal punishment is the best treatment of a person with a foolish tongue (Pr 26:3). If that person is your child, then you can train him in the way he should go with the rod and reproof (Pr 22:6; 29:15). If it is a prospective spouse, end the relationship! If it is a friend, you can easily find new and better friends (Pr 9:6; 13:20; 14:7). Choose wise men with wise speech for your companions, for they will make you better (Pr 22:11; Ps 119:63).