Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.
Wise men and fools differ in two important ways. First, a wise man has knowledge and understanding, but a fool is ignorant and presumptuous. Second, a wise man has humility to keep his wisdom to himself, but a fool’s pride causes him to spew out the foolishness in his heart (Pr 13:16; 15:2,28; 29:11). Wisdom and modesty make a man great, but foolishness and conceit make him an offensive loser. Examine yourself. Which are you?
Dissect the proverb carefully. An understanding man, a man with discretion, knowledge, and prudence, keeps wisdom in his heart. He is not agitated or eager to throw his opinion around when opportunities arise. He is content to be a listener. In fact, he would rather not speak unless asked or expected to do so. He is a man of few words, and you often have to work to get him to share his wisdom (Pr 10:19; 15:28; 17:27; 20:5; Eccl 9:17).
However, a fool must tell everyone what he thinks. His greatest joy is talking, for he believes and presumes he has great insights to offer (Pr 18:2). Once he starts talking, he is difficult to stop. He keeps babbling, whether he knows the subject or not (Eccl 10:12-14). Though a fool is ignorant and stupid, his pride and lack of discretion cause him to pour out the folly inside. He could improve his reputation just by closing his mouth (Pr 17:28).
Of course, a wise and understanding man will speak, and he will speak a lot in the right setting for the right purpose. He fulfills his purpose from God by being a tree of life to many (Pr 10:21; 11:30; 15:4,7). Though humble about his own natural abilities, like the prophet Agur (Pr 30:1-3), he is committed to acquiring knowledge and wisdom so he can give the certain words of truth to those who ask him (Pr 22:17-21; I Pet 3:15).
Reader, ask yourself two questions. Do you have wisdom and understanding in your heart? Do you keep them there until serious and sober men ask your opinion for noble reasons? Your answers to these questions will indicate whether you are a good person or a despised fool. In fact, better than your answers, what would others say about you? Do others perceive you to be wise and discreet? Or foolish and talkative? Be very honest.
What can you do about your heart? This book of Proverbs offers wisdom throughout (Pr 1:1-6; 8:1-5; 9:4-6). It tells the starting point – the fear of God (Pr 1:7; 9:10). It compares wise men and fools over and over, for you to choose the one and despise the other. Wisdom is not far away. Change your life – fill your heart with wisdom from heaven. It is the chief goal of a successful life (Pr 4:7). And it brings great rewards (Pr 4:8).
What can you do about your mouth? This book of Proverbs says much about your speech, because it is the main indicator of your heart, and it affects others the most (Pr 4:24; 10:32; 13:3; 14:7; 17:7; 18:7; 20:15; 22:11; 24:26). Solomon assumed you can learn discreet, wise, and gracious speech (Pr 15:28; 16:23; 22:17-18). Since Jesus Christ said you will be judged by your words in the Day of Judgment, it is time you applied yourself diligently to perfect your heart and your speech (Matt 12:34-37; Ps 19:14; 139:23-24).