Proverbs 17:27-28

Sparing Words


1. These two proverbs deal with ONE subject: The wisdom of sparing words.

2. Verse 27 deals with the reality.

3. Verse 28 deals with the perception.

4. Both passages teach that it is WISE to spare words.

27a He that hath knowledge spareth his words:

1. He that hath knowledge.

a. Lit. = He that knows knowledge… (Two words for knowledge).

b. He that understands discernment… a man who is skillful with knowledge and understanding… he who knows knowledge experientially…

2. The man who has a hands-on, experiential grasp of understanding and knowledge… SPARES his words.

a. Spares:
• Strong’s: withhold; restrain; hold back; keep in check; refrain.
• Dict. of Bib. Lang.: restrain; halt; i.e., stop an action from occurring.

3. A man who is SKILLFUL in wisdom, knowledge, and discernment has learned experientially to spare his words.

a. That is a great lesson.

b. It is one thing to HEAR a message like this.
• Not all who hear actually learn.
• It is possible to hear… to acknowledge that there is truth in what is being said… but not to practice it!
• It is possible to hear in one ear—and let it all go out the other.
• It is possible to hear and even to memorize the verse… but not practice the truth found therein.
• It is also possible to hear this truth, believe it, and to do our best to practice it. That is FAR better.
• It is possible to learn from the book (book-learning).

c. It is quite another thing to learn this truth experientially.
• Book learning is great—and even ideal… if we can learn the truth and then practice it.
• BUT the tongue is so HARD to tame.
• Unfortunately, it is usually the school of hard knocks that seems to drill in truth the deepest…
• There is nothing like actually getting burned to teach us to stay away from a hot stove…
• Even though the manual might warn against leaning against a hot stove. Over time, we can forget what the manual said.
• A very painful BURN seems to be the best teacher… it is the kind of lesson that seems to stick with us.

d. Experience is an excellent teacher… which is what Solomon speaks of here.
• A person who has learned BY EXPERIENCE to spare his words really understands knowledge…
• One of the best ways to learn to close one’s mouth is to stick your foot in your mouth—say too much and get BURNED as a result.
• Our mouths can offend others, hurt feelings, alienate, create division, cause friction, anger, even hatred. Our words can be like swords that wound the soul. Words can cause us to lose friends… and can separate chief friends.
• If YOU by YOUR words have caused any of that… and it has come back to BITE you—often the BITE is the best way to learn experientially keep your mouth shut!
• Wise men have learned this lesson.
• A few VERY wise men learn the lesson by hearing and practicing what they heard from the Bible.
• It seems the rest of us have to learn the hard way—by experience… and usually the experience is unpleasant—like getting bit or burned.

4. Sparing our words.

a. This doesn’t mean that such a man doesn’t talk at all, but he SPARES his words. He uses words sparingly.

b. There are a few little “RULES” of speech which if followed, will cut down dramatically on the raw number of words that flow off our tongues.
• THINK before you talk. When we do that, it usually will cut our words in half or more! (Prov.15:28) He studies to answer.
• Eph. 4:29 – no corrupt speech—and it must be edifying.
• The golden rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. (Don’t speak or joke about others unless you would like something similar said about you). Sometimes people who DISH OUT a lot of jabs and jokes towards others, but can’t take them themselves.
• Fearing God will cut down on our words too. We should be afraid of displeasing God with our mouths… and aware of how easy it is to do! (Psa. 19:14 – let the words of my mouth—be acceptable).
• Remember that we will have to give an account for every idle word we speak. That will limit our words too!

c. There are some good questions to ask before speaking:
• Is it TRUE? Do I have my facts straight? Am I sure? Is my source reliable? Am I repeating hearsay?
• How will these words be perceived by this brother?
• Could this information be used against me? Could it be used to slander someone else?
• Imagine how it might sound if repeated in another setting… for it very well may!
• Would you want your name attached to this information as its source if it gets disseminated?
• Would it be more helpful and edifying to give forth this information or to withhold it?
• Would the person who told me this information WANT me to tell others? Was it given in confidence?
• HOW should it be worded?
• How can it be seasoned with grace? Is it kind?
• Is this the right time and place to say this or would another setting be better?
• Does it really need to be repeated?
• Is this going to stir up controversy and divide friends and brethren? Will it be unifying among the saints? Edifying to this brother? Glorifying to God?
• Taking the time to ask a few questions will also cause us to spare our words.

27b And a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.

1. This expression speaks of the same issue. He continues to speak of the same man of understanding… the man who “knows knowledge.”

2. This man is of an excellent spirit.

a. Lit = a cold or cool spirit… it is a figure of speech.
• It has virtually the same meaning today in our expression, “he was cool headed.” (level headed; cool, calm, and collected)
• It is far better to have a cool head and a warm heart than to have a hot head and cold heart!

b. The man of understanding has learned to “cool it” when it comes to the use of his tongue.
• He has a cool spirit—cool, calm, and collected.

c. That cool, calm, and collected spirit is one of SELF CONTROL.
• He doesn’t fly off the handle in a rage of passion and spout off all kinds of words that he will regret later.
• He learned to spare his words by controlling his spirit – his inner man. That’s where the words come from.

d. Being cool headed cuts down on words immensely—especially the harsh, hostile, angry, unkind, corrupt words… the kind that especially needs to be restrained.

3. Psa. 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth—be acceptable…

a. This ought to be the goal of the use of our tongues—to please God.

b. Prov. 10:19 – Constant babble and gabbing invariably leads to sin.

c. Prov.15:2 – The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.”
• Fools pour out foolishness; (no restraint)
• Wise men spare their words.

28 Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise; and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

1. Verse 27 spoke about the reality. Truly wise men control their spirit and thus spare their words.

2. Verse 28 speaks about a perception. Even fools can APPEAR to be wise if they keep their mouths shut!

3. Onlookers will consider that man to be wise.

4. Prov.10:14—Normally, fools are FULL of words.

a. However, if they restrain their speech, they can give the IMPRESSION that they are wise.

b. In fact, it might be the beginning of wisdom for them… to stop talking and start listening.

c. When a fool holds his tongue—others will think him to be wise.

5. Prov. 29:11 – Usually, a fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.

a. But when a foolish man chooses to NOT blurt out whatever is on his mind, he appears to be wise…

b. His behavior is much like that of a wise man.

6. Example: Try to envision a convention of the world’s ten leading microbiologists.

a. They have assembled together in one of the large, walnut paneled conference rooms in the inner sanctuary of MIT.

b. The men have never met before, but have convened to discuss potential benefits to mankind of a recent breakthrough in their field.

c. And one of the seats is occupied by a man who never finished third grade… and who knows nothing about microbiology.

d. He was told to sit quietly and stroke his beard throughout the discussion.

e. You could not distinguish between those men UNTIL the uneducated man opened his mouth.

7. There are lots of good applications from this truth.

a. If you don’t know what you’re talking about—then don’t say anything! There’s nothing wrong with being ignorant. But there is something wrong with being FOOLISH—and saying foolish things. You’re better off being quiet and letting others speak.

b. It is great wisdom to know when and where to speak… and when and where to be silent.