He that is void of wisdom despises his neighbor: but a man of understanding holds his peace.…
I. THE EFFECTS OF SOCIAL SIN. It dissolves mutual bonds of confidence, corrupts and disintegrates the social order and stability. In the mixed condition of human character and society there are elements of weakness and elements of strength. Our speech about others and behaviour to them tends either to bring out their weaknesses, so promoting discontent, suspicion, and distrust, or it. tends to bring out their good qualities, so promoting genial confidence and good will.
II. SOME EXAMPLES OF SOCIAL SINS. Great stress, as usual, is laid upon the tongue.
1. There is contemptuous talk about our neighbour. The art of depreciation is cruel to others, and moreover is, as the text says, senseless. What good can come of it? Of Byron's poetry the great Goethe said, "His perpetual fault finding and negation are injurious even to his excellent works. For not only does the discontent of the poet infect the reader, but the end of all opposition is negation; and negation is nothing. If I call bad bad, what do I gain? But if I call good bad, I do a great deal of mischief. He who will work aright must never rail, must not trouble himself at all about what is ill done, but only do well himself. For the great point is, not to pull down, but to build up; and in this humanity finds pure joy."
2. Still worse is open slander (ver. 13). Secret detraction is like an arrow shot in the dark, and does much secret mischief. Open slander is like the pestilence that rages at noonday. It sweeps all before it, levelling the good and bad without distinction. A thousand fall beside it, and ten thousand on its right hand. They fall, so rent and torn in their tender parts, as sometimes never to recover the wounds or the anguish of heart which they have occasioned (Sterne).
3. Independent counsels (ver. 14) are another source of social mischief. As when there was no king in Israel, and when every man did that which was right in his own eyes, and the people became the prey of their enemies (Judges 2:19, seq.; Judges 17:6; 21:25). The spiritual forces in a nation, the intelligence and honest patriotism of its rulers, are ever of more importance than wealth, fleets, or armies.
4. Rash undertakings. (See on Proverbs 6:1, seq.) To promise more than there is a reasonable prospect of performing; to enter imprudently into bargains, covenants, or treaties, not easy to abide by, yet involving disgrace and dishonour if broken. The serious penalties which follow acts of imprudence should instruct us as to their real sinfulness, The good intention is marred by the hasty or thoughtless execution.
III. SOME SOCIAL SAFEGUARDS.
1. Seasonable silence. (Ver. 12.) As we are not to believe all we hear, so neither are we to speak all we know; to be cautious in believing any ill of our neighbour, and to be cautious in repeating what we do believe, are alike duties.
2. Kindly desire. "The honest man's ear is the sanctuary of his absent friend's name, of his present friend's secret; neither of them can miscarry in his trust" (Bishop Hail).
3. Fulness of counsel. (Ver. 14.) The "multitude of counsellors" implies association, conference, and cooperation. By the exchange of ideas we enrich, define, classify, or correct our own. The same subject needs to be looked at from opposite points of view, and by minds of different habit; and the just medium is thus arrived at.
4. Caution. (Ver. 15.) Especially with reference to the incurring of responsibilties. To fetter or lose our freedom of action is to deprive ourselves of the very means of doing further good. One of the acts of benefaction is to contrive that neither the doer of the kindness shall be hampered by excessive responsibility nor the recipient of it by excessive obligation.
5. As the foundation of all, intelligence and love - the inner light which fills the intellect with illumination and the heart with glowing affection. These are the sources of truth in friendship, safety in counsel, general usefulness to society. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.