A Little Foolishness
Verse 1 A Fly in the Ointment
Many serve God but they do not serve him completely. They want God’s approval in their lives but still they on purpose do bad things. In truth they are combining good actions with evil actions. The result of this is not good. God insist that people serve Him only. (Deuteronomy 5:7-9) Jesus said that it is impossible to serve two masters. (Matthew 6:24) When people do not obey all of God’s commands they are guilty of all of His commands. (James 2:10-11)
Perfume has a sweet smell and is only useful when its smell is pleasant. The maker of perfume must be sure to keep his product clean. A fly may seem to be a small matter but it will spoil a whole jar of perfume. A dead fly in the perfume will cause the whole jar to go bad and when opened it will smell bad.
The Bible considers it wise to serve God and declares it to be foolish not to serve Him. A wise person will give his life completely to God. (Acts 3:19) A wise person will not join in on any evil activity. (Psalm 1:1)
People who serve God will sometimes do wrong things and they consider that a serious matter. (1 John 2:1) They will confess and repent because they need God’s forgiveness. (1 John 1:9) God is able to forgiven their evil deeds because Christ has paid the debt for their sins. (1 John 2:2)
Verses 2-3 Wise and Foolish Behavior. Is It Just a Matter of Opinion?
What is wise or foolish is not a matter of opinion, as there is a difference between wisdom and foolishness. Wisdom and foolishness are complete opposites. Some people imagine themselves to be wiser than other people are and this causes many arguments between them. They might insist that their opinion matters but if they wanted to learn they would not argue so much. (Proverbs 9:9) Having a foolish argument will not prove anything because wisdom is completely different that foolishness.
Solomon uses a word picture to explain his point. The wise man and the fool walk along the same road together. While they are doing this the foolish man wants to go in the opposite direction. They are unable to walk together because every decision leads the fool away from the wise man. They are unable to agree because they have different desires. The wise man desires the right thing but the fool does not care if his decision are right or not. The fool is looking to satisfy only his desires.
One wanting to be wise will walk with the wise man and listen to his wise words and intimate his actions. This is how one can learn from the other. Wisdom is not just careful thoughts and sensible decisions. To find true wisdom one must respect God. (Proverbs 9:10) Wisdom is not opinion based but God based and that is the complete opposite of foolish behavior.
Verse 4 Reasons to Behave Calmly
When rulers become angry it may be because we deserve his anger for doing something wrong. Or the ruler may be angry for another reason. In each situation we will experience the stronger emotion and even feel anger to and want to strike back. This would not be the wise thing for us to do. To allow our emotions to control our behavior is foolish. Our reaction to the angry ruler should be one of calmness and to continue to carry on and preform our duties in an honorable way.
By this behavior we will avoid punishment even if we are the one who is in the wrong. But there is a greater reason that people of God should maintain good behavior. Even as we are working for the ruler in this world the real master is our God. We give honor to the rulers of the world because God tells us that we should give them respect. (Romans 13:1-7) We are to obey them as if we were obeying Jesus. (Ephesians 6:5-8)
We must realize that the rulers of this world will not always treat is with due respect. Often times they will not give us the rewards that we rightly deserve. But the rewards of the people in this world should not be a great concern to us. It is the rewards that we receive from God that are more important as they are eternal.
Verses 5-7 When Rulers Make the Wrong Decisions
A ruler will chose his servants carefully. He will give authority to those who are loyal, honest, and capable. He trust them to govern well.
A powerful ruler will not always act in a sensible manner and will give the important positions to his friends who may not be capable. If the ruler is foolish enough to do that then his friends are probably foolish too. In the Bible a fool cares only about pleasing himself and does not serve God or care for other people.
When a ruler gives authority to fools better people lose their important positions. But the foolish ruler takes away their wealth, authority, and importance.
The ruler may have done this just to show how powerful he is. The princes in verse 7 are important officials as judges and the leaders of the army. Now the great men work as slaves and they must give honor to those who were formerly slaves.
No human ruler has complete authority even in this world. God has authority over every ruler. God gives honor to humble people and takes away the authority of proud people. (Luke 1:51-53) God has to do this because powerful rulers have given authority to the wrong people. (Mark 10:42) When the day comes that God rules all these things will be justified. (Revelation 20:4)
Verses 8-9 Lessons About Danger
Solomon list four activities and four dangers. The form of these statements from Solomon may lead us to think he is teaching the same lesson. Solomon does not tell us the lesson and perhaps he thinks that we should figure it for ourselves.
From them we are learning practical advice. Each activity has its own certain danger. A person cannot work in a safe manner if he does not know the dangers of his work. People need to know the dangers of the work they are doing so they can protect themselves.
Solomon is also giving a warning that people should not be too confident about their future. No matter what people may do there is always the present danger of death. People cannot protect themselves from every danger although they must try. Life at is safest best is short and we must always prepare for our death. The most important safe guard is to have a right relationship with God, as one day He will be our judge.
Solomon is also giving a lesson on ambition. In each of the examples the person involved wanted to gain a benefit from his labor. But the person gained no benefit as an accident happened. The work may have been necessary but it was impossible to avoid the danger. Work for people is not always necessary and they are done for ambition or greed. They strive to make money that they do not need and place themselves in danger when it is not necessary.
Verse 10 Why Everyone Needs Wisdom
The axe is an iron tool that is especially dangerous. The axe is used to cut down trees or cut through large pieces of wood. The wood is hard and requires a lot of energy from the one swinging the axe. If the axe is dull it would make the work much harder to do so the axe must always be sharp. If the axe is dull the worker should not use it as it would be more dangerous to use. A dull axe makes injuries more likely to happen.
We all know that we want our rulers to have great wisdom but wisdom is not just for the important people but the common as well. The common man who uses the axe needs to also have wisdom. The workman must be wise enough to know when to sharpen his axe. Otherwise he will wastes his strength and place himself in greater danger. There is no benefit if he does not sharpen his axe.
Many people learn how to carry out a task but do not learn to do it well. They are like workman who us dull axes. Their lack of wisdom causes them to work much harder and they place themselves in greater danger. They fail to see the benefits of wisdom in their labors.
The Bible teaches that wisdom is a wonderful quality. (Proverbs 8:1-21) Wisdom shows how to have a right relationship with God, which teaches us how we should live. Wisdom is an essential quality for every person. (Matthew 7:24-25)
Verse 11 Get Rich Quick Schemes
We have all fallen to the get rich quick schemes or at least I have. The promise is quick money with little effort. These plans will always fail, good money requires hard work.
Solomon introduces us to the get rich quick scheme of his day the snake charmer. One charmer will teach the snake to dance while he plays music. When he does this in public the people will pay him money and in some countries this still is a practice. Another charmer may have learned the skill to get snakes out of houses and people will pay him for that.
Many snakes are dangerous animals and they can bite and kill people. If the snake is very dangerous the people will pay him greater amounts of money. It is a dangerous life for the snake charmer as at any time the snake my bite him and cause great illness or death. Money is of no value to a dead man or comfort to a man who is very ill.
It’s easy to imagine the profits that our plans may achieve. Even our best plans will take a lot of effort and hard work. We must learn the skills needed to accomplish our goal. We must understand the risk and plan against the dangers. Then we must carry out the work and continue until the entire task is complete. Even then we may not be successful.
The one who is truly wise does not make his own plans but asks God to direct his paths. Then that person trust God and follows Him in faith. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Verses 12-15 A Foolish Person’s Words Ruin His Own Life
The wise know that they are responsible for all their words and actions. Because he is careful and sensible he shows his respect for God. The wise person’s words then are full of kindness and goodness.
The words of a foolish person has a different character. Solomon uses a strange and terrible word picture that the fool’s mouth eats him up. It is as if his words were like a wild animal that attacks him. From his foolish words his own life is ruined. His words are the cause of his troubles and the reason for his punishments.
The Bible says that a foolish person refuses to respect God. His care is for his own desires. When he speaks his words express only his own silly thoughts. The words of his mouth have little meaning and as he speaks his true character become clear to see. In the end the words of his mouth evolve into wickedness.
When the fool speaks of the future his plans are preparations for wickedness. As the fool has no vision of the future that God will be his judge.
The fool does not work as others do. He works to say and work evil things. But his efforts, as wicked as they are, still tire him. Perhaps even more than the honest workman. After the hones workman’s day is done he still haves the energy to return to his home. But the fool does not and perhaps he finds his rest in drunkenness. Who knows where the drunkard sleeps as his foolishness has ruined his life.
Verses 16-17 Wrong Desires Ruin People’s Lives
These verses may be for kings and princes but they hold a lesson for everyone. The subject is greedy behavior and the dangers of alcohol. It is a lesson of how wrong desires can ruin lives.
The king is acting as a child and being irresponsible. His drive is to satisfy his own desires and he like friends who also party, feast, and drink much wine. He is a king and can do as he wants so he appoints friends as important princes in his country. They spend their days eating and drinking. As a result the country suffers and none can tell the rulers to act sensible. No one can receive a just judgment, as the judges have become drunks. The military cannot defend the country as the officers spend their time at the parties when they should be leading their army.
In verse 17 the country is very different as they have a noble and honorable king. His army officers are strong and the judges are sensible. His country is successful and the people benefit from the rule of a wise king and his princes. In this country the rulers are not greedy and none are given to too much drink. They care for their country and not about just themselves.
What is true for rulers is also true for other people. When wrong desires control a person’s life he cannot govern his family well. Neither can he govern his own life well.
Verse 18 Reasons Not to be Lazy
The Bible has many warnings about laziness. God has given His people work to do. (Psalm 104:23; Exodus 20:9) Paul expresses that Christians have work to do. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-13) There are reasons that people do not want to do their work. Perhaps they have no strength or they have become greedy. Or maybe they are drunkards. It may be that they know an easier way to get their money. That way is usually a wicked scheme. It could be just laziness and work does not interest him and he prefers to do nothing at all. Whatever the reason the result is always the same.
The lazy person will suffer. If he does not repair his roof it will leak. His family suffers, as when the roof leaks all who live in the house suffer. His possessions suffer from the water that comes through the roof.
His problems do not end there as now when he repairs the roof it will be more work than when it first started to leak. When the repair was small he did not want to do it and now it is major and he must. If his laziness continues he will lose his house. If he is too lazy to repair the roof what other areas of his property does it effect? Kings have lost their countries because of their laziness and greedy attitudes.
Verse 19 Is Money the Answer for Everything?
The subject of the verse seems to be the rulers of verse 16. They have prepared everything for their own pleasure. They have ordered the food for their own party in plentiful amounts. They have ordered plenty of wine too as they could not consider running out. They must drink until they are controlled by their drunkenness. This to them is the essence of a good party.
Their money will provide everything that they need to make themselves happy. For a poor man such a party would not be possible. But these people are the princes and the wealth of the country is for them to enjoy. Nothing is too much for them as there is no end to their wealth. So they spend greatly for their own pleasure.
The attitudes that they have are lazy, greedy, and evil. If the poor acted in such a way he would lose his home. When rulers act in such a way they ruin their countries. The people are angry with their rulers, but they are afraid. It is clear to the people that great troubles are soon to come. They see the desperate situation but are powerless to do anything about it.
In the Bible there are several accounts of rulers who have behaved in this way. The Prophet Isiah warned about such behavior. (Isaiah 5:9-13) Babylon at the height of its power lost it by this kind of behavior. (Daniel Chapter 5)
Verse 20 When Even Your Thoughts Can Be Dangerous
It is easy to be angry with the rulers of your country. But it is not sensible even if they are doing many wrong things. The rulers are rich and powerful and they can use their power against you. They have authority and they may give orders against you and other people will obey them. It is better to be sensible and not have powerful people come against you.
You may be careful of your words in public but say whatever you wish in private. That too can be dangerous, as you never know who may be listening. You may never know the one who told your words to your rich enemies. It will be better for you to never say these words. If your king is cruel and powerful you do not want him to come and oppose you.
The thoughts you have in secret cannot change the attitude of the king. Even if you did oppose him in public your actions are unlikely to have any effect. When rulers of the world are very wicked political action usually achieves nothing. An evil person hates good advice. (Proverbs 15:12) A wise person know when he should keep his silence.
Solomon uses another word picture in his use of the birds. It is the idea that someone is always listening. You can never really be sure when you are alone or with friends. Your privet words matter as your public words.