Proverbs 15:2

The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.

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You can say the wrong thing, and you can say the right thing the wrong way, or at the wrong time, or to the wrong person. Wisdom learns what to say, how to say it, when to say it, and to whom to say it. Truth is not enough. Do you know how, when, and to whom to speak the truth? Fools babble without regard to these four factors of godly speech.

Solomon taught often that speech is one of the most obvious signs of wisdom or folly (Pr 10:18-19; 15:28; 17:27-28; 18:6-7; 29:11; Eccl 10:11-14). A wise man or a fool can be easily discerned by his speech, which is measured by content, manner, timing, and audience. The key to this proverb is the qualifying adverb “aright.” A wise man speaks knowledge acceptably, but a fool prates on and on without knowing what he is saying.

This proverb is for your success. Fools destroy relationships and aggravate situations by talking far too much about far too little. They love the sound of their voice expressing their feelings and opinions, but no one else does, so they eventually lose all friends and opportunities for advancement. Those around them finally get tired of cringing every time they open their mouths and/or having to do damage control after they have spoken.

Wise men wait until they have something valuable to contribute, and they say only what is necessary, in the right way, at the right time, to the right audience. Others quickly learn to stop speaking and to listen when such wise men begin to speak. Because all their words are profitable and acceptable, others want them around, so they are promoted to positions of authority and influence due to their wise speech habits (Pr 16:13; 22:11).

What is godly content? The proverb says wise men speak knowledge. They do not give vain opinions, which fools love to do. They study before they speak (Pr 15:28). They crave the certain words of truth (Pr 22:17-21). They know speech contrary to Scripture is worthless (Is 8:20). They want to edify (Eph 4:29). Speak only if you have truth (Pr 16:23), when important to the hearers (Pr 29:11); cut your words in half (Pr 17:27-28).

What is godly manner? The proverb says wise men speak aright, which means rightly, correctly, properly. Gracious speech is acceptable speech (Pr 22:11; Eccl 10:12). The Lord Jesus spoke this way (Ps 45:2; Luke 4:22), and it is a commandment (Col 4:6). Gracious speech is agreeable, charming, courteous, gentle, kind, pleasing, polite, merciful, and thankful. Seek the love of others with each word (Pr 22:1; 24:26; 25:11).

What is godly timing? A wise man listens before speaking (Jas 1:19). He makes sure he knows a situation before talking (Pr 15:23; 18:13; John 7:24). He alters his speech for his audience (Pr 25:20; I Cor 9:19-23). He lets the more knowledgeable speak first (Job 32:4-7). He knows that haste in speech makes him worse than a fool (Pr 29:20), especially in the house of God (Eccl 5:1-7). Slow down! Listen first, think second, and speak last!

What is a godly audience? Not all deserve words of truth spoken graciously at the right time. Ignore fools after an initial rebuke (Pr 26:4-5). Avoid scorners altogether (Pr 9:7-8). The Lord Jesus taught this wise rule (Matt 7:6). Warn the unruly, exhort saints, comfort the feebleminded, rebuke sinners, and train children (Lev 19:17; I Thes 5:14; Heb 10:25).

Knowledge and truth do not allow speaking any way you wish. There are rules of wisdom and godliness for how you handle knowledge and truth God gives. Everything, including speech, must be done without offence in Jesus’ name (I Cor 10:31-33; Eph 4:15).