Our mouth can be a source of blessing or our downfall. For the fool the latter is more the case. His mouth is a means of trouble, strife, and eventually ruin. Let's try to learn from him today and avoid the things that happens when a fool is speaking.
First we learn that a fool's lips bring strife. The idea here is that when a fool opens his lips to speak - along with his speaking comes strife. Evidently the fool is itching for a fight because that is what takes place after he speaks. His mouth calls for blows. The fool is the one who always has to have the last word - and that word is usually highly offensive to those who hear it. You watch the fool escalate his statements from offensive to provocative. He provokes those around him to the point where their anger is boiling over. He enrages people with the way he speaks - and the end of it all is blows - a fist fight. Rather than walk away from a growing tension, the fool throws gasoline on the fire and stokes it in every way he can. He does not have the ability to let an insult go - and just walk away. He has to one up the person who insulted him by offering an even greater insult. Actually, the fool usually is the one who starts all this - almost as if he or she is wanting the fight.
At the core of all this is pride. The fool is filled with it. As I said earlier he can never let something go. Anything said requires his provocative response. He loves contention and controversy. He loves quarrelling and disputes. He thrives on hostilities and his words invite them constantly. A wise man knows how to calm people with his responses. The fool only inflames them. No wonder that in the end we watch him punching and being punched as the fight erupts.
The next verse continues this thought. The fool's mouth is his ruin - and his lips are continually snaring his soul. The word ruin is the Hebrew word "mehittah" which means destruction, ruin, and terror. The root word for "mehittah" is "hatat" which means to be broken or afraid. The fool thinks he is bringing himself honor or at least respect when he won't take anything from anyone else. He thinks he is standing up for himself and that all others will know he is not someone with whom you want to tangle. But the opposite is true. His mouth is not bringing him respect, it is bringing him ruin. His mouth is a continuous source of terror for his life. He is constantly in danger because of his big mouth. He keeps opening it and getting himself in trouble. He says that he wants to stay out of trouble - at least that is what he tells the officer each new time he is arrested - at least that is what he says when he stands before the judge again and again - but his mouth is a snare for him. He speaks out for himself and in doing so sets another trap directly in front of himself to step into. We would consider a man the ultimate fool if he set a bear trap and then stepped into it - but that is what the fool does with his mouth all the time.
Let me offer an example from real life. We read of sports figures who are constantly getting in trouble. It seems that they go from one altercation to another - in and out of a courtroom as if they were walking through a revolving door. Why does this happen? A lot of it happens because they have the mouth of a fool - and they use it in the company of other fools. Where do they go regularly? They go to bars and clubs. What happens to them - they run into other fools whose minds are dulled by alcohol. When they do some fool (either one at the bar or they themselves) opens their mouth in typical drunken arrogant fashion. Feeling "dissed" they then "bow-up" in pride and let their foolish mouth run free. Of course when you get two drunken fools like this together the escalation is not only going to happen - it is going to happen quickly. More foolish words are exchanged as they trash talk one another and, you got it, a fight breaks out betwen them. In recent years we've added to the fist fights - fools who carry guns with them into bars and other places - and someone becomes angry enough to shoot someone else. Then we get the court case where any normal person would be send away for their crime - but in the case of the rich, spoiled athlete - some deal is cut to let him continue to entertain us with his physical prowess. We never think about the damage done to our children who unfortunately are taught to idolize these fools - and who follow in their footsteps.
Our mouths are incredibly powerful things. James says that our tongue's can set the course of our lives on fire - and that they can be set on fire by hell itself. That is why we need to learn things like humility, patience, and restraint. It is also why we need to be wise and to avoid the company of fools whose mouths continually snare their souls. Let your mouth be filled with the Word of God - with gracious and kind words - and with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let your mouth become the instrument that brings you blessing - not the tool which the devil, working unhindered through your flesh, uses to bring you to ruin.