In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.
Is your speech mostly arrogant or gracious? All speech falls somewhere between these two extremes. Where does your speech fall? Does your speech tend toward being gracious and kind at all times? Or does it tend toward being arrogant and hurtful at times?
Here is one of the problems – you are not a good judge of your speech. Only others can accurately tell whether you are haughty or kind in your words. All men want to justify the way they speak, but it is the hearers that feel either irritated or blessed by your words.
There are consequences to pay for your speech. Harsh and proud speech brings punishment and trouble from God and men; discreet and gracious speech brings blessing and safety from God and men. Can you rule your mouth to protect yourself from trouble?
How you use your tongue, one of the most difficult things to rule, dictates how you are treated in life. Both death and life are in the power of the tongue, and if you indulge yourself in talking, you will realize one or the other result (Pr 18:21). Solomon warned often about the consequences of speech (Pr 10:20,31; 15:2; 21:23; 26:28; Eccl 10:12-14).
What is this rod of pride in the mouths of fools? It is a metaphor describing how the proud speech of a fool hurts others and himself. His tongue becomes a weapon for pain (Job 5:21; Jas 3:9-12). A fool cannot control his proud speech, and it causes others and him grief wherever he goes (Pr 12:18; 13:10; 14:16; 18:6-7,21; 21:24; 28:25; 29:20).
But a wise man is preserved and honored by his tongue. He uses speech for the good of others, and they love him for it (Pr 15:4,23; 24:26; 25:11-12). His gracious and kind words win the blessing and favor of others (Pr 11:16; 22:11; 31:26). He preserves his soul from much grief by wisely dealing with those around him (Pr 6:1-5; 12:13; 15:1; 18:7).
When a fool talks proudly with his mouth, the pride in his words causes others to dislike and resent him. He loses friends and relationships, but in his ignorance does not know why. When a wise man graciously and humbly denigrates himself to advance others, they respond with affection and appreciation. Such a man gains in friends and honor.
Do you know where your speech falls between arrogance and grace? Since your heart is deceitful above all things, you are a poor judge (Jer 17:9; Ps 19:12). Since men are prone to excuse their own faults, you must accept the judgment of others. Do others think you biting, harsh, proud, or sarcastic? Or do others think you gentle, kind, edifying, or meek? You must crush even the smell of pride in your heart to have acceptable speech (Pr 16:5).
The word of God is plain here. Corrupt speech is to be replaced with gracious and edifying speech (Eph 4:29). Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice are to be replaced with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness (Eph 4:31-32). Your speech is to always be gracious, allowing room for only a little salty seasoning (Col 4:6).
The Lord Jesus Christ spoke with the purest grace ever (Ps 45:2; Luke 4:22). Even officers sent by the Jews to apprehend Him could not believe His excellent speech (John 7:45-46). The wisdom from heaven is distinctly different from the wisdom of hell, and both kinds are evidenced in the heart attitude and speech of men (Jas 3:14-18). Let the wisdom of this proverb dramatically turn your speech today from pride to graciousness.