“Restraint” is everyone’s favorite concept, but it is a quality of the wise. Even outside of relationship with God, a wise person learns self restraint. To be sure, a person doesn’t even need to be all that wise to understand that unrestrained speech can quickly get you into trouble, and that unrestrained action can easily land a person in the penitentiary. A person who is wise in the faith knows much more, for he or she is fully aware that our God is a model of self restraint. A wise person of faith will restrain his or her speech and actions simply out of love for God.
Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful
than ten rulers in a city.
Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
no one who does what is right and never sins.
Do not pay attention to every word people say
or you may hear your servant cursing you—
for you know in your heart
that many times you yourself have cursed others.
Although the word “restraint” is not present in these verses, restrain is very much in evidence; restraint in deeds is clearly implicit in the first two verses and in word in the remaining ones.
In the first two verses, notice that one wise person is said to be more powerful than ten rulers, and that this is followed by a statement that no one is without sin. What is it that makes the wise person so strong? The Teacher speaking of sin and righteousness is the clue; the wise person avoids the sins that lead to destructive and limiting behaviors that detract from the rulers’ effectiveness, even though the wise person has their problems sometimes.
Then there is the matter of words; we are advised not to pay attention to what everybody says and that requires restraint. He gives an example: Don’t listen to everything people say, or you might hear your servant curse you; but then you have done your share of cursing. The curse uttered by the servant isn’t worth hearing, and your own cursing isn’t worth saying; a wise person uses more restraint that either reacting to every idiot utterance they hear, or saying stupid things. In the process, they avoid so much grieving of the Lord, not to mention problems of a more earthly nature.
When I think about it, this is a really simple little lesson. In fact, it’s a lesson my mother and father taught when I was a little kid; “behave yourself and watch your mouth.”
You would have thought I wouldn’t need to hear this all these years later, but there are times when I do need to hear it again; how about you?
The chapter draws to a close as the Teacher sums up the value of wisdom; see you next time!