Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor. A wise man’s heart is at his right hand, but a fool’s heart at his left.
When I first met him, I was not sure how to take him. I believe he was one of the first young adults in that service to greet me and ask who I was. He also was probably the first to make me feel a little uncomfortable and self-conscious. This man prided himself on being the proverbial devil’s advocate, the one to push buttons just to get a reaction, the one who had no problem saying what everyone else was thinking but had too much wisdom to say. That was the character he wanted to play because he thought it made him funny and made others want to be around him. The reality was that the way he carried himself actually drove many good people in the opposite direction.
Solomon’s words here are akin to the old adage that tells us that one rotten apple can spoil the entire bunch. When foolish words spill forth from the mouth, they can nullify and distract from the wisdom one has to offer. The thing about foolish words is that we can speak even the complete truth in foolishness. It is less about what we say and more about understanding how our words impact others and impact the spiritual world around us. The wise man who spends enough time speaking like a fool eventually will be seen as just that. Once that happens, there will be no one to listen and learn from his wisdom. God gives us ointment that cures, but we can turn that spiritual salve putrid with our foolishness.
I think a good rule of thumb is this—think twice, speak once. The same way we write by first creating a rough draft and then editing our thoughts into a work that is cohesive and clear, that is how we should craft our speech. We must understand that words have power and purpose, and everything that we say has some effect on our audience. If we know that and carry it with us, if we practice filtering our words and speaking with purpose, then we will be seen and known for our wisdom. Father, help us to be wise in speech, to recognize the power our words carry, and to rid ourselves of foolishness more and more daily so that we would be sought for our wisdom.