A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.


My wife has an expression for the person whose mouth opens and gushes forth streams of idiocy which should have remained locked away in the reservoir of the heart.  She calls it, “a case of diarrhea of the mouth.”   Mark Twain must have had the same idea in mind when he famously quipped, “It is better to have people to think you a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”


What is it about us, that we think we have to speak even when we have nothing of value to say?  Is it that hearing the sound of our own voice makes us feel important?  Is it that we want to be perceived as intelligent, wise and knowledgeable, able to speak authoritatively concerning any and every subject?  Or is it that we are threatened by silence, as if we must fill the space between us and the others around us with words, lest a moment’s silence should become an awkward void?


I submit that the issue of Proverbs 12:23 is of tremendous significance for myself and my fellow “preacher-types.”  We are absolutely the worst when it comes to feeling obligated to fill the air with words.  I have just come away from a Sunday afternoon, pastoral visit with a senior citizen, a widow in my congregation.  She, like many women of her age and station in life, is lonely and doesn’t have company in her home very often.  Therefore when I visit, she enjoys the chance simply to chat away about loved ones, some of whom I know, most of whom I do not.  As she reminisced this afternoon, there was a moment in which I could hear my own voice, rising above hers, commenting on something she had just said.  Maybe I was simply trying to let her know that I was listening, that I was engaged in what she had to say.  But probably not.  It’s more likely that I just couldn’t stand being out-talked for even a few minutes.  I thought to myself, “If I were listening in on this conversation, I would conclude that guy (me!) is quite a jerk.”


Oh, and how about in the pulpit?!  I once had a seminary professor who warned my class that the greatest danger for preachers in the pulpit is that we’ll be tempted to say things that simply aren’t true—treating biblical principles as promises, projecting guaranteed outcomes, and so forth.  Is that anything other than “proclaiming foolishness”?  I had another seminary prof who often remarked, “Anyone who makes his living from his religion will eventually lose one or the other.”  How many “hireling” preachers have absolutely prostituted their faith in the pulpit, proclaiming foolishness, just to earn a paycheck?


The proverb above tells us quite bluntly:  zip it up!  You don’t have to say everything you think. You don’t have to teach everything you know.  You don’t have to win every argument.  You don’t have to express every opinion.  You don’t have to weigh in on every debate.  If someone asks you for the time, you don’t have to lecture them in the craft of building a grandfather clock. It is far more prudent to keep a reservoir, a storehouse, of wisdom inside, from which you pull out treasures only when necessary (Matthew 13:52).  Knowing our propensity for gabbing when wisdom calls for silence, the great Peter Marshall prayed, “Great questions stand unanswered before us, and defy our best wisdom.  Though our ignorance is great, at least we know we do not know.  When we don’t know what to say, keep us quiet.”


Twenty years ago I recall an elderly Presbyterian gentleman giving some tidbits of wisdom to me and several other young aspiring pastors.  He said, “Men, for your first year in ministry, at each meeting of Presbytery simply sit and do not say a word.  No matter how important the issue, no matter how heated the debate, no matter how much insight you might have about the subject, for your first year you are to say absolutely nothing on the floor of Presbytery.  After you have completed one year of silence, then you may make your first motion on the floor.  Your first motion should be, ‘I move that we break for coffee and doughnuts.’  Then the entire Presbytery will think of you, ‘What a wise man!’”


A wise old owl sat in an oak

The more he saw, the less he spoke

The less he spoke, the more he heard

Why aren’t we like that wise old bird?


  Father God:  Give us the grace of silence.  Through Christ our Lord:  Amen. 

About Grady Davidson

Husband, father, and pastor of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, serving at Lookout Valley Presbyterian Church, Chattanooga TN, since 2002. Grady's life verse is Habakkuk 2:14, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." Amen! View all posts by Grady Davidson

6 responses to “PROVERBS 12:23

  • Men of One Accord

    I am just waiting for Anthony’s comments!
    Oh yes my toes are under that bus tooo !

  • Anthony Baker

    As a preacher and pastor, I never say anything that is out of line, out of context, or out of my mind. I am always conscious of my choice of words, all of which are studiously contemplated before being released from my mouth. The sermons I preach are usually vacant of words guided by my own will, but are unctioned from on high, thereby making me an ever-present oracle of righteousness behind the sacred desk. Peace, love, and harmony flow from my lips in such volume that the kind words produced have turned away more wrath than anyone can know. I resent the insinuation that my toes are anywhere near Grady’s bus. You, James (Men of One Accord), are just a heathen. I am a preacher – I don’t never say anything amist.

  • Men of One Accord

    Pastor Anthony, I sorry my comment offended you for it is my toes who are under the bus. I always have enjoyed your comments and was looking forward to your wisdom that you so often add to the thought of the day. My wording may be poor and yes I am a heathen. James

    • Anthony Baker

      James, dude! Please forgive me if my dry sense of humor shot across the bow without hitting the mark. I was joking. Didn’t you catch the “never say anything amist” remark? It’s “amiss,” not “amist.” I spelled it wrong on purpose to highlight the irony of what I was saying.

      I make mistakes ALL the time! Even when I preach!

      You’re good to go, man. No problems.

      • Men of One Accord

        Anthony, There nothing to forgive I think to highly of you to be hurt or upset with you. I read what you had written and was afraid I offended you so said I am sorry. My dyslexia would have never let me catch the spelling of amiss and anist on the first reading or two. I still did not catch it till you pointed it out. After I had written my reply and read your reply a time or two I did catch your double negative at the end. I am a mistake looking for a place to happen. Your are my brother in Christ Jesus I can not help but LOVE you. james

  • Grady Davidson

    While you guys are under the bus, will you please check on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?

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