Proverbs 14:3

ESV By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will preserve them.
NIV A fool's mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.
NASB In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back, But the lips of the wise will protect them.
CSB The proud speech of a fool brings a rod of discipline, but the lips of the wise protect them.
NLT A fool’s proud talk becomes a rod that beats him, but the words of the wise keep them safe.
KJV In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.

What does Proverbs 14:3 mean?

Here, Solomon emphasizes the idea that failing to control one's words is a recipe for disaster. A foolish person's uncontrolled, thoughtless words hurt others, who will eventually hurt him. Rods were used in the ancient world for self-defense and as a form of government punishment. The person using careless, hurtful speech eventually faces consequences (James 3:4–6).

Psalm 64:3 compares the tongues of the wicked to swords and their words to arrows. However, following verses say, "God shoots his arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly. They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them" (Psalm 64:7–8). Their own attacking words come back to haunt them.

On the other hand, a wise person's controlled and gracious speech keeps them out of trouble. Sometimes, that discretion is simply a matter of knowing when not to speak, at all (Proverbs 10:19). No one has unnecessary reason to harm such a person. Believers ought to employ speech that is far different from the arrogant, rough, biting speech of evildoers. Their speech should resemble that of the Savior. First Peter 2:22 assures us that He never deceived anyone, and Luke 4:22 testifies that all who heard Him "marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth."
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