Proverbs 11:12

Wisdom and the Tongue


1. In this of Proverbs, Solomon had a lot to say about the tongue

a. 10:11,13,14,18,19,20,21,31,32

b. 11:9… and now in vs.12-13.

2. It might not be apparent when reading the verse at first that the topic is the tongue—since words like tongue, mouth, speak, etc., do not appear in the verse.

3. One of the best ways to understand proverbs like this is to dissect them… or put the comparisons side by side in a chart…

a. He that is void of wisdom contrasts with a man of understanding…
• They are opposites.

b. Despising one’s neighbor contrasts with holding one’s peace
• These two are also opposites.
• Holding one’s peace = being quiet —
• Hence, the opposite of holding one’s peace is SPEAKING.
• How is this speech described in the verse? “Despising one’s neighbor.”
• In other words, the fool demonstrates his hatred towards his neighbor by what he SAYS about him.

4. The contrast is this:

a. A man of understanding holds his peace. He bites his tongue. He doesn’t speak against his neighbor.

b. But a man who LACKS wisdom DOES speak against his neighbor… which in reality is an act of despising one’s neighbor.

c. The next verse gives us an example of despising one’s neighbor by revealing his secrets. (read vs. 13)

d. A wise man holds his peace. A man void of wisdom does not hold his peace. He speaks out against his neighbor… proof that he despises his neighbor.

He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbor.

1. Here is the description of a foolish man who despises his neighbor.

2. He is VOID of wisdom.

a. Wisdom would lead him to bite his tongue…

b. Note that Solomon describes this sin not so much as a lack of control of one’s tongue—but rather a lack of wisdom!
• This person does not have common sense… he lacks good judgment!
• Cf. Prov. 6:32 – he says the same thing about the one who commits adultery.
• It is not so much a sin of a lack of self control of the desires of the flesh. It is a lack of good judgment… a lack of understanding… void of wisdom!
• Wisdom and understanding in 6:32 are the same Hebrew terms. (they speak of good judgment; common sense)
• How can those kinds of sins be overcome? Not so much by self discipline — but rather by means of filling one’s head and heart with Divine Wisdom!
• A lack of wisdom results in the sins of the tongue and the sins of the flesh!
• We will never tame the tongue… and our old man will never improve. But we can fill our minds and hearts with God’s Word… the more the better.

c. Prov. 11:9 – the hypocrite with his mouth DESTROYS his neighbor.

d. We can do a lot of damage to our neighbor by the things we say about him—especially behind his back.

e. Prov. 10:18 – he is void of wisdom—a FOOL—who hides his hatred for his neighbor…or utters a slander…
• That kind of speech is a perfect example of despising one’s neighbor…
• It is also a perfect example of one who is void of wisdom.
• Wise people don’t tear others down with their mouth.
• Why? Ecc. 10:20 – because the wise man knows that those things have a way of being discovered… found out… Sooner or later that fool will earn the reputation of being a big mouth that no one will trust.
• Why else do wise people avoid slandering their neighbor?
» Because he knows that every idle word we speak we will have to give an account for at the Bema seat! (Matt. 12:36)
» Men who are void of wisdom don’t care about what they say about their neighbor. Men of wisdom do care.

3. Despise: to despise, hold in contempt, hold as insignificant

a. The man who speaks against his neighbor in reality does not think too much of his neighbor!

4. Psa. 120:1-4 – Here the psalmist states the awful effects of a lying or deceitful tongue.

a. Note that such talks hurts the SOUL of another person!
• For a believer to speak against another person, knowing that it hurts their SOUL… is a demonstration of the fact that they do not think too highly of that person! Not if they don’t care about hurting his soul.

b. What can you do about such a deceitful tongue? What is the answer?
• In verse three David addresses the lying deceitful tongue (poetic language).
• What should be done to such a tongue? The psalmist answers his own question: Radical surgery. Cut it out with a sharp arrow—or burn it out with hot coals!

c. The point: deal with the sins of the tongue! Don’t let it continue to inflict pain on others.
• The psalmist realizes that what is being said about him is a lie and deceit.
• However, it is painful to think that others might believe it of you.
• It is also painful to think of the damage that can be done by lies and deceit!
• The deceitful tongue can be like a dagger… a sword… a knife in the heart.

d. Anyone who could knowingly and willfully inflict such pain on another person obviously does not think too highly of that person. He is pretty insignificant in the sight of the slanderer.
• The one who despises his neighbor by speaking evil of him or her is VOID of wisdom.
• Void: He LACKS wisdom. (He might have a lot of dirt on someone else, but no wisdom; he might be a smooth talker and come out smelling like a rose, but he lacks wisdom)
• This is an ancient problem. Solomon wrote about it centuries ago!
• Men and women have ALWAYS spoken behind the backs of their neighbors and inflicted hurt on others through the unwise use of their tongue.
• There is nothing new under the sun.

But a man of understanding holdeth his peace.

1. Hold his peace = keep silent.

a. The fool blurts out all kinds of dirt on his neighbor—because he does not think highly of his neighbor.

b. The wise man keeps silent. He too may have some dirt on his neighbor… but he doesn’t blab it all over town. That’s wisdom.

c. Note again that Solomon does not attribute this to self-control—or control of his tongue—but rather to wisdom.

d. Prov. 11:19 – he that refraineth his lips is wise! (same point as in vs. 12)

2. This man does NOT despise his neighbor by speaking evil of him.

a. If his neighbor is worthy of scorn—he will in time demonstrate that himself!

b. You don’t have to proclaim his folly. Let him do it!

3. The man who lacks understanding despises his neighbor by magnifying the mote that his in his neighbor’s eye.

a. If he had any wisdom, he would consider the beam in his own eye!

b. Wisdom sometimes gives us something to say. More often than not it gives us reason to keep quiet… especially when it comes to speaking evil of our neighbor.

4. The man of understanding may look at his neighbor… and see a multitude of faults.

a. But his wisdom causes him to PITY his neighbor—not lash out at him.

b. His wisdom causes him to PRAY for his neighbor—not slander him.

c. His wisdom will cause him to keep his peace before men—and pour his heart out for that neighbor before the Lord.

d. If his neighbor is overtaken in a fault, rather than gossiping all over town about his fault, the spiritual man will attempt to “restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering himself lest he also be tempted.” That’s wisdom.

e. If our neighbor… or our child… or brother… or spouse… has a fault, the fool will blab. The wise man will keep silent—and try to help.

f. The wise man does not try to pick a fight… he tries to pick him up.

5. Fools despised Christ and spoke evil of Him. He did not lash out at them. (I Pet. 2:23)

a. Wise men know enough to hold their peace… be still… be quiet.

b. Any fool can lash out with the tongue. In fact, EVERY fool does so.

c. It takes grace and wisdom to hold one’s peace.

d. It is not a sign of weakness to hold back, but a sign of great strength and wisdom!

e. A man of understanding holds his peace.

f. Do you want victory over your tongue? Grow in wisdom and understanding… get as much of it as you possibly can… fill you head and heart with it… it is available… avail yourself of it!

6. What do we DO when others despise us and speak evil of us?

a. Psa. 119:23 – Princes also did sit and speak against me: but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes. Spend time in the word.

b. The word of God is also a balm for a wounded spirit.

c. The word of God also gives wisdom… and understanding… and that in turn will prevent us from BECOMING a fool and lashing back!