A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes.
Foolish talkers should be beat. You have heard them. They are obnoxious. Arguments and debates follow them wherever they go. Are you ever one? Do your words grate, irritate, frustrate, or provoke others? Wisdom and success depend on ruling your speech.
Consider the next proverb, which is related. “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul” (Pr 18:7). A man that cannot rule his speech will destroy himself. His mouth will get his soul into trouble in all sorts of ways. He needs to be beat.
Do not think Solomon’s conclusion is too harsh. The beating is for their own good. The beating would increase peace and quiet by silencing those that make a loud nuisance with their mouths. If they had potential for success, the beating would help them find it. If it were done, it would not be done much, for fools would control their speech to avoid it.
A problem today is a gross misunderstanding of so-called free speech. No one has the right to say anything they wish. All men have the responsibility to only say those things that please God and profit men. But now with the flick of a finger, emails or texts or tweets send arrogant words, haughty speech, and disrespectful retorts all over the place.
A fool prefers talking to listening, especially if he is corrected. He would rather argue and contradict than humble himself to instruction. Lacking respect for authority and others, he speaks when he ought to be silent. His froward speech leads to confrontations, and his inappropriate remarks beg for someone to give him stripes on his back with a rod.
Here is another common theme in Solomon’s Proverbs – ruling your speech. The tongue is a powerful thing; it can be used for good or evil, life or death (Pr 18:21). A wise man studies to answer (Pr 15:28); he is slow to speak and says no more than necessary (Pr 17:27-28). But a fool pours out foolishness, letting everyone know he is a fool (Ecc 10:3).
Fools cannot control their mouths (Eccl 10:12-14). They talk too much. They talk without thinking. They retort quickly. They talk when they should not. They fight fire with fire. They answer issues before they even hear them (Pr 18:13). They are disrespectful and irritating. They question things not to be questioned; they argue about words to no profit.
Fools have no discretion. They do not know that different situations call for different words and tones. They just plow ahead verbally, like the proverbial bull in a china shop. Their quarrelsome approach to conversation is offensive and confrontational, resulting in hurt feelings, contention, and strife. They cause fights, and they deserve to be beaten.
Solomon taught soft answers turn away wrath and end fights (Pr 15:1). Gideon knew such wisdom, as he flattered Ephraim to take away their anger at not being invited to the early stages of a battle (Judges 8:1-3). Wise men know such discretion, but fools can never learn it. There is only one way to teach a fool – stripes from a rod (Pr 26:3).
Parent, do you consistently and diligently teach your children the rules of gracious speech? It is a very valuable thing you can teach them. Success in every part of life, from marriage to their professional success or a role in a church, requires sober and thoughtful speech. You are with them every day; you can fulfill this proverb literally. Do not allow them to bicker or argue with siblings, dominate conversations, jest, or talk back to you.
Christians always speak with grace (Col 4:6; Eph 4:29). If criticism is needed, only a small amount is used. Open debate and wrangling are wrong (I Tim 6:3-5; Titus 3:9). Christians reject blustery exchanges about anything. Once a fool is corrected, no more words should be used (Pr 26:4-5; 23:9). Let him fall into his ditch (Matt 7:6; 15:12-14).
But fools will be meddling. They want to question everything. They want to argue any and every point. They want to object. They want to get their two cents in. They want to remember past offences. They want to correct details. They want to whisper about others.
They are saucy and insolent. They are critical and negative. They are crude and rude. They are hasty and loud. They are impulsive and obnoxious. They are graceless and shameful. They are fools – they cause contention and fights – they deserve to be beaten.
Are you one of them? Are you ever guilty of disturbing the peace of those around you and getting into unnecessary conflicts – unnecessary in the minds of others, for every fool is always right in his own eyes. Will you humble yourself and change your speech habits?
How important is this little proverb? After this life you will stand before the Creator God and give account for every idle word you spoke while on earth – your speech will help determine your destiny (Matt 12:34-37). You will then wish you had been beaten for foolish talking. Instead, God in kind mercy sent you this proverb by the pen of Solomon.
God is more severe than Solomon! He hates the perversity of filthy speech, foolish talking, or jesting; He calls for giving of thanks instead (Eph 5:4). He is sending Jesus soon to judge men for these sins. “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience (Eph 5:6).