27It makes a lot of sense
to be a person of few words
and to stay calm.
28 Even fools seem smart
when they are quiet.
“Better to keep your mouth shut, and be thought a fool,” goes the old down-home version of these two proverbs, “than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
I’ve known a few truly wise people, and a handful of brilliant scholars (which may be two quite different things!). I’ve been impressed with the realization that, in a room full of people with much to say, the wise and the brilliant are almost invariably the last to speak.
An old rendering of verse 27 reads like this: “A man of understanding is of a cool spirit.” I like that. I’d like to have a cool spirit – one which doesn’t get all heated up, needing to prove itself to others, clamoring to be heard with every little factoid within its tenuous grasp. One that is secure in its possession of a wisdom rooted in Wisdom itself.
The Hebrew text of verse 28 is more complex and nuanced than the Contemporary English Version. It seems to make the point that keeping one’s mouth shut is actually a form of wisdom in itself! Even a fool might learn something, if only he or she can keep quiet. And listen.
O God – You are the source and repository of all wisdom. Grant me patient lips, that I may be slow to speak; a calm spirit that is ready to listen; and ears to receive what you may whisper in the silence. In the name of the Word, your son, Jesus.