Ministry Resources

60 Seconds – Brevity is the Soul of Wit

Author: Dave Arnold

A young man was sent to Socrates to learn oratory. On being introduced to the philosopher, he talked so incessantly that Socrates asked for double fees. “Why charge me double?” said the young fellow. “Because,” said the orator, “I must teach you two sciences: the one, how to hold your tongue, and the other how to speak.”

William Shakespeare, in his play “Hamlet,” wrote, “Brevity is the soul of wit,” meaning that articulate and intelligent communication (speech and writing) should use few and wisely chosen words. In Proverbs 17:27, we read, “He who has knowledge spares his words,” meaning that he shows his common sense. Matthew Henry commented, “He ‘spares his words’, because they are better spared than ill-spent.” The Living Bible renders both verses 27 and 28, “The man of few words and settled mind is wise; therefore, even a fool is thought to be wise when he is silent. It pays him to keep his mouth shut.”

According to Ecclesiastes 10:11 – 14, those who know the least, talk the most. Solomon describes them as “a babbler,” whose words “swallow him up,” and “the end of his talk is raving madness,” because he is “a fool who multiplies his words” (NKJV). George Elliot stated, “Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact!”

The directions that come with a well-known brand of fountain pen say, “When this pen runs too freely, it is a sign that it is empty!” In Proverbs 10:19, we are warned, “Don’t talk so much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow!” (The Living Bible). Remember, “The more you say, the less people remember.”

We are instructed in James 1:19, to “be swift to hear and slow to speak.” Calvin Coolidge, the thirtieth president of the United States, came home from church one Sunday, and his wife, who was ill, asked him what the sermon was about. “Sin,” said Coolidge. “Well, what did the minister say about it?” she asked. “He said he was against it,” Coolidge replied. He was famous for his brevity. When a woman at a state dinner bet him she could make him say more than two words, Coolidge replied, “You lose.”

“Do not be rash with your mouth…therefore let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5: 2).

Take just 60 seconds, and have something to think about all day! Stimulating articles written by Dave Arnold.

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