“From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good, but the desire of the treacherous is for violence. Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”
We live in a time when anyone can express their opinion anytime about virtually anything. Being thoughtful, knowledgeable, and wise is not a requirement. Reckless, uninformed opinions are becoming the norm.
Another feature of this social-media enabled trend is the more dramatic and controversial the opinion, the more responses it is likely to attract. Apparently it’s more about likes, retweets, and follows than it is about truth and helpful wisdom. Also, it must be said that claiming something to be true is no substitute for doing the hard work of discovering what is actually true and then expressing it wisely.
Here then is a bold but needed statement: You must do the work and earn the right to express your opinion. If you haven’t done the work, don’t comment. The world has no need of your impulsive proclamations or allegations.
Be informed or be quiet.
Proverbs 13.2-3 speaks to this, once again emphasizing the importance (and the difficulty) of managing what we say and why. The core message is that when speech is wise and helpful, the speaker “eats what is good.” In other words, wise words produce good things.
The more subtle message is about motive. The wise person wants to produce good things, and therefore speaks in an effective and helpful way. But the motive and desire of the “treacherous” person is “violence.” They say things with the intent of inflicting harm, doing damage, and hurting people.
Once again, look no further than much of what you hear and read in various social media platforms. It is the same toxic gossip that is spoken at the water cooler or the coffee shop or the backyard fence, but because of technology it gets a highly amplified distribution and thereby quickly reaches a wider audience and does more damage.
The advice that Solomon gives is simple, but not easy. Talking (or tweeting) too much leads to problems; therefore,“Guard your mouth.” Be discerning and disciplined. Don’t give in to verbal or emotional impulse. Before you speak or hit send, press pause and think. Restrain yourself.
The result will be that you “preserve your life.” By that he means you will preserve and safeguard the relationships in your life, and you will preserve your reputation in the community. You will be known as someone with wisdom and discretion. And again, as a result, good things will happen. You will “eat good things.”
The impulsive and impetuous person, on the other hand, will ruin his reputation. Because he gossips and sows seeds of discord, no one will invite him to dinner. People will avoid him; they won’t want to be around his negativity and verbal violence. At some point, his life will “come to ruin.”
Foolish people are reckless in the way they speak. Wise people understand the power of their words and carefully choose what they say.