Growing up, my three siblings and I were no strangers to the usual frictions of daily life together, as well as the occasional instance of sibling rivalry.
One particular incident from my mid-teens remains in my mind—a time when I reacted too quickly to what I perceived as a small injustice and spoke without full knowledge of the situation. I felt that I had been doing a disproportionate amount of chores compared to my sister, yet received little appreciation for my contribution, and decided to voice my thoughts to my mother.
Midway through my rant, I suddenly recognized my words—which had previously sounded so righteous in my mind—for what they really were: foolish, untrue, and petty. By the time the last word left my mouth, I was already beginning to regret speaking.
I still remember the look of hurt on my mother’s face as she explained that my perception of the situation wasn’t accurate and that she wasn’t playing favorites.
I knew that I had hurt my mother, and was overwhelmed with shame.
At different points in my life, experiences like these have revealed that my heart is deceitful and prone to react impulsively, and have convicted me of my need for wisdom.
In Ecclesiastes 10:2, we see a contrast between those who are wise and those who are foolish: The wise inclines to the “right,” or correct way, while the heart of the fool leads him to the opposite. The Teacher goes on to describe the ways of the fool in great detail throughout the chapter—he lacks sense (v. 3), is ignorant (v. 15), and lazy (v. 18).
Additionally, fools expose themselves as fools to everyone (v. 3). Their words are many and unproductive (v. 14), and destroy them (v. 12, NLT). In contrast, the words of the wise are “gracious” (v. 12).
So, what does it look like to conduct ourselves with wisdom—especially in a world filled with injustice, where foolish people are often put in positions of dignity and power (v. 6)?
We usually associate “wisdom” with knowledge, intelligence, and insight. But Proverbs 9:10 tells us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” While “[t]he fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1), the wise person lives with reverence for God, which inspires obedience to His will as revealed in the Bible.
And this means choosing to live in accordance to God’s Word when we’re caught in the heat of a conflict or an unjust situation. Many years later, I can look back and see how passages instructing us on the wisdom of restraining our lips (Proverbs 10:19) and being slow to speak (James 1:19), have helped me greatly.
During times when I was tempted to lash out at someone with impatient or angry words, I am grateful that the Holy Spirit helped me restrain my tongue, and instead gave me the words of a gentle answer (Proverbs 15:1) that have—almost always— turned away wrath.
These occasions have helped me resolve to shun foolishness and live wisely. As the Preacher reflects in verses 6-7, conducting ourselves with wisdom doesn’t always mean that we will necessarily win favor with people or avoid pain, but God’s Word has promised there is great blessing in doing so.
So, whether it’s in the words and manner that we speak, the way we conduct our relationships, or make important life decisions, let’s seek wisdom in Scripture and apply it to our lives.
—By Chong Shou En, Singapore
Questions for reflection
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