Solomon tells us “the quiet words of the wise are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools”. A ruler has positional authority. Someone who can yield coercive power over others. A ruler might use shouting to express their power. But Solomon makes it clear that positional power is an inferior form of power. 

What some call referent power is superior. Referent power is influence gained through respect.

The superior power Solomon advocates appears as words heard in quietness. Contrasting with the shouting of a ruler, the words of the wise are heard not because they are required to be heard, as with a ruler, but because those hearing the words of the wise recognize their benefit and choose to listen. Accordingly, those who hear the words of the wise are wise themselves. As opposed to the fools who are directed by the shouting of a ruler.

Solomon asserts that wisdom is better than weapons of war. That referent power is our great superpower, gained through the words of the wise rather than coercive physical strength.

However referent power is not always used for good. “One sinner destroys much good”. Just as the referent power of the wise can do much good, the referent power of the sinner can lead many astray. When people are led astray, their actions result in destruction.

As faith superheroes, we have a great responsibility to steward our words, to be aware of what we say and do and how it influences those around us. Are we whispering wisdom or shouting foolishness? Are we pursuing referent power or leaning on positional power? Our posture and our perception will inform how we interact with and influence others.

“The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.”
– Ecclesiastes 9:17-18