Author Archives: Anthony Baker

About Anthony Baker

Husband, dad, pastor/preacher/teacher, musician, and Time Magazine's Person of The Year in 2006 (no joke!). Loves coffee (big time), good movies, and sarcastic humor. His tombstone will read, "I Can't Believe He Actually Said That!" Most importantly, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. All glory belongs to Him.

The Sluggard Life

Proverbs 26:16 

“The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.”
“The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” – NKJV
Self Perception

The idea here is that the sluggard….wait just a moment…what kind of mental image do you have this very second?

slugSluggard. Think about that word, sluggard. Not just lazy or slothful, but slimy, covered with mucous, moving slowly about the ground leaving shiny trails behind. Sluggard. A slug. A snail-like critter, but too poor for a shell.

The idea, here, is that the sluggard has a self perception problem. He is wiser in his own eyes than seven men, simply because he is the sluggard, not the ones working. The great Matthew Henry comments:

“His slothfulness is the cause of his good opinion of himself. If he would but take pains to examine himself, and compare himself with the laws of wisdom, he would have other thoughts of himself… So wretchedly besotted is he that he takes his slothfulness to be his wisdom; he thinks it is his wisdom to make much of himself, and take all the ease he can get… Of such sluggards, who are proud of that which is their shame, their is little hope.”*

Beyond Reason

So, is there hope for someone who sees laziness and living off of others as a virtue? Verse 12 says that there is more hope for a fool than one that is wise in his own eyes. How much worse, then, one wise in his own eyes that is also a bum? A sluggard?

The Fox News Channel did a story on how some people are scamming the American food stamp system (EBT). They attempted to show how assistance originally meant to aid those in real need was being taken advantage of by people refusing work. Fox News found a perfect example in a young surfer named Jason.

Jason, an unemployed surfer who mooched off of relatives and friends, determined that work was something he did not want to do. He admitted to being perfectly happy taking tax payers’ dollars each month to buy food. All he cared about was playing in a band, meeting cute girls, drinking, and most of all, surfing every day.

There was no reasoning with him. He had everything figured out.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY AND WATCH THE VIDEO

Beyond Argument

But what does the Bible have to say?

“The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.” – Proverbs 21:25

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”” – 2 Thessalonians 3:10 NIV

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1014.


Sloths and Lions

Proverbs 26:13

“The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.”

This verse is one of several in a row that deal with the “slothful man.” Each one gives us a different description of him and his ways.

Slothful

When I hear the word “slothful” all I can think about is that poor, slow, moss-covered critter. The sloth is an animal that barely moves, sleeps most of the time, and quite frankly, stinks. I mean, how nasty would you have to be for moss to grow on you?

three_toed_sloth_11What a disgrace, then, to be called slothful? One could be called slow, a little behind, or weak, but that might mean he was a turtle, a baby elephant, or a butterfly. Even the word “lazy” doesn’t carry the same, stinky punch as “slothful.” Yet, there are people in this world who could make a sloth look peppy by comparison.

Lions

What I find ironic is that there are lions in the streets. It’s not that lions are not dangerous, but they are go-getters, hunters, fighters, and fast; everything the sloth is not, nor wants to be. Yet, in life it’s the “lions” and “tigers” who are successful precisely because they are in the streets, not inside watching The Price is Right.

The lazy, slothful man will never be any more that what his as long as he never hits the streets. However, if he would only seek employment with tenacity, creativity, and the driving hunger of a lion, there would be nothing left to fear.

I pity those who make excuses for everything and depend on others to do all the work. The pleasure that comes from the satisfaction of a job well done is far more gratifying than having the best moss garden on my back.


Cancer of Conceit

Proverbs 26:12

“Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.”

Snobs

One of the problems with the modern atheist movement is attitude. Arrogance, snobbery, and conceit may have been present all along, but having a condescending attitude is now the new trademark of Darwinists, or should I say, “Dawkins-ists”? They love to belittle creationists; berating them, making fun of them, even to the point of tears. Richard Dawkins even said of Christians: “Mock them…ridicule them in public…with contempt.”

There are always those who believe they know everything (like teenagers). They will look down their noses at others with different opinions, never giving any credence to their proposals. Solomon would say there is little hope for a person like that.

But are atheists the only ones with attitude problems? What about the Calvinist who believes any disbelief in his theory is due to a lack of education and willful ignorance? What about the denomination that insists to be a member of any other is a sin? What about the man who takes what a woman says with a grain of salt?

Arrogance is a cancer covered by many different skins.

Dangerous Doctoring

Most of us have no idea where cancer comes from; it can appear without any warning. The healthiest people can get lung cancer, even when they don’t smoke. Skin cancer can appear overnight, even on a person who never gets a sunburn. But the key to survival is early detection, not denial.

Some people experience the symptoms of disease, but refuse to go to the hospital. The worst offenders are people with some medical education, because for some reason they think they know as much as the doctors do. They refuse to seek medical attention and say, “I can handle this myself.”

Some people believe that aliens gave them cancer, but at least they have enough humility to seek help. Of the humble crazy person and the proud medical student, which has more hope of survival?

Humility

Have you ever met people who know just enough to be dangerous? Their self-confidence becomes a substitute for true wisdom, thereby making them “wise in their own conceit.” But at least a fool, if he admits he doesn’t know everything, can find help before his world falls apart.

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” – Isaiah 57:15

Lord, help us to recognize our faults and weaknesses. Help us to “seek you first,” rather than relying on our own wisdom, for You are our only Hope.


A Difficult Thought

Proverbs 26:10

“The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.”
“Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.” – ESV

This proverb is a challenging one because of how many different ways it could be translated. As a matter of fact, practically every scholarly commentary admits the Hebrew in this proverb is difficult to interpret. That is why I am going to quote several of them before I leave my final thought for you.

Spence-Jones (The Pulpit Commentary)

Few passages have given greater difficulty than this verse; almost every word has been differently explained. The Authorized Version is, The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors; Revised Version, As an archer (Job 16:13) that woundeth all, so is he that hireth the fool and he that hireth them that pass by. At first sight one would hardly suppose that these could be versions of the same passage. [1]

Garrett (The New American Commentary)

The Hebrew of v. 10 is almost unintelligible and thus subject to numerous interpretations, all of which are hypothetical. As the NIV has it, the verse reaffirms that one should not commit important tasks to fools (as in v. 6). Notwithstanding all the difficulties of the text, that does seem to be the main point.[2]

Friedrich and Delitzsch (Commentary on the Old Testament)

All that we have hitherto read is surpassed in obscurity by this proverb, which is here connected because of the resemblance of ושכר to שכור. We translate it thus, vocalizing differently only one word:

            Much bringeth forth from itself all; But the reward and the hirer of the fool pass away.[3]

Matthew Henry

Matthew Henry

Our translation [KJV] gives this verse a different reading in the text and in the margin; and accordingly it expresses either, 1. The equity of a good God. The Master, or Lord (so Rab signifies), or, as we read it, The great God that formed all things at first, and still governs them in infinite wisdom, renders to every man according to his work. … Or, 2. The iniquity of a bad prince (so the margin reads it): A great man grieves all, and he hires the fool; he hires also the transgressors. When a wicked man gets power in his hand, by himself, and by the fools and knaves whom he employs under him, whom he hires and chooses to make use of, he grieves all who are under him and is vexatious to them. We should therefore pray for kings and all in authority, that, under them, our lives may be quiet and peaceable.[4]

Anthony Baker (Proverbial Thought)

So, here is what I think. Feel free to quote me 200 years from now.

A man is a fool when he employs a fool to complete a task. However, the biggest fool is one who thinks God, the Almighty Archer, will miss the target when He holds the wicked accountable.

We are always under His watchful eye, but the fool is never out of His “sights.”


[1] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Proverbs, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 500.

[2] Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 213.

[3] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 6 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 387.

[4] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994).


Slings and Stones

Proverbs 26:8

“As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.”

Sling Shots

I used to own a pretty sweet sling shot. It had a handle shaped like a pistol grip, along with a metal brace that would go over my forearm. Attached to the forks was rubber tubing and a leather pouch. I could put a lead or steal ball in that sling shot and kill an elephant (at least in my imagination). However, the sling shot that I had as a child could not compare to the ones that were used during biblical times.

Home-made sling.

Home-made sling. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one that David used against Goliath was a serious weapon which required considerable skill to use. Sure, my sling shot could kill small vermin and knock down targets at close range, but the type of slings Solomon was referring to could, and did, kill people. In Judges 20:16 we read how the Benjamites had 700 left-handed slingers who could aim at a hair and not miss. In 2 Kings 2:35 we read how that the Israelites used slings in warfare. As a matter of fact, lead shot used by the Greeks and Romans in warfare could have an effective range of over 200 yards.

Amazingly, even though the sling was in use over 3,000 years ago, it is still being used today as a weapon by survivalists and fighters alike.  It would seem that its simple construction, ease of use, low cost, unlimited availability of projectiles, and deadly potential could keep the sling in use forever. In the hands of a trained slinger, it is practically foolproof…unless you bind the stone.

Bound Stones

As good of a weapon that the sling shot is, it is worthless if the stone or shot never leaves the pouch. Sometimes a stone can fall out of the pouch by accident, but putting another one in only takes a second. But the idea of securing the stone to the sling so that it never leaves is like plugging the end of a rifle.

But this is what Solomon is trying to explain. Honor, prestige, wealth, giftedness, glory: all of these things are wonderful tools which can be used to great effect by the wise man. However, when in the possession of the fool, all of these things, especially honor, are worthless.

Implications

Solomon is speaking to the one who actually gives honor to a fool. The fool doesn’t posses honor on his own, but has it given to him. The warning in this verse is really aimed at the one who needs the stone thrown.

Some people will honor people who don’t deserve it with promotions and bonuses, thinking that those blessings will make the fool more of an asset. The problem is that the fool will not share in the honor given, nor will he use it appropriately. Therefore, instead of being useful, the fool has now become a liability, much like a soldier who refuses to fight.

Beware of political correctness. Beware of honoring for the sake of honoring. The one who truly makes honor worthless is the one who gives it to the fool in the first place.

 


Worthless Legs

Proverbs 26:7

“The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.”

This verse and verse 9 are very similar; both talk about worthlessness of wisdom given to fools. In this verse we see a parable compared to a crippled person’s legs. In verse 9 we will see a parable compared to a thorn in a drunk’s hand.

Parable

Before we go any further, let’s make sure we understand what a parable is. One dictionary defines a parable as “an extended metaphor or simile which compares a religious truth with a common experience or circumstance in life.” [1] But if that was too confusing, a parable is “a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson.” [2]

Jesus was famous for using parables to illustrate certain truths to His disciples. For example, you may remember the parables of the mustard seed (Matt. 13:31), the seed and the sower (Mk. 4:3), and the ten talents (Matt. 25). Each one was used to illustrate a point in such a way that the hearer could relate truth to a common experience.

Legs of the Lame

The King James version describes the legs of the crippled person as “not equal.” At first glance it may seem like Solomon is talking about one leg that is shorter than another. However, That “not equal” is another way of saying limp, worthless, or shriveled.

Imagine legs that have no strength, unable to bear the weight of the owner. They are deformed, curled under, twisted, and completely useless. Taking into account the original meaning of the Hebrew term (see Strong’s H1802), they may do nothing more than hang like string.

Parable In the Mouth of a Fool

Now, take the image of crippled legs that you have in your head and imagine them being a parable. How good is a parable that is incapable of illustrating truth? How good is a story that bears no resemblance to common experience? A parable like that can’t even stand on it’s own two feet.

How worthless, then, is the advice of a fool? What good is his counsel? Why should we listen to him?

Keep that in mind the next time you are offered emotional, spiritual, relational, and marital advice from someone who doesn’t even believe there is a God.


[1] David H. Wallace, “Interpretation of Parables,” ed. Ralph G. Turnbull, Baker’s Dictionary of Practical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1967), 107.

[2] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).


Conversational Traps

Proverbs 26:4

“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.”

To some it seems like a contradiction in Scripture. Here Solomon is telling us to not answer a fool, but in the very next verse he seems to say the opposite. The Apostle Peter even tells us (1 Peter 3:15) to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.” Why, then, should we “answer not?”

Flawed and Senseless

Have you ever tried debate a teenager (or self-assured college-age daughter)? Trying to convince them of truth is like a genuine exercise in futility. When they are convinced they know what is right, there is no arguing, even when they realize their argument is flawed.

Some people will argue over things that make no sense at all, thereby making it impossible to win, no matter what side one’s on. For example, there was lady who called into a radio talk show complaining about the placement of deer crossing signs (signs that warn motorists that deer cross in that area). Let me give you a paraphrased version of the conversation…

deer crossingLady:  I’ve been trying to talk to somebody about this, but no one listen to me.

Radio: Really? What is the problem?

Lady: Well, there have been a lot of people hitting deer on the highway, including me. I just feel they should move these signs to places where there are less cars and slower speeds…I mean, we shouldn’t encourage deer to cross the interstate…that’s too dangerous.

Radio: Are saying these signs are instructing the deer where to cross?

Lady: Yes, and all it would take is moving the crossings to a safer place, like a school zone, where people would have time to see the deer coming and not hit them.

The problem with answering  a fool is that, when we do, we give the fool credence. Answering a fool in his “folly” tends to legitimize the fool’s efforts and encourages him to continue.

“Like unto him”

As a blogger, I receive comments from people all over the world, and believe me, the world is full of fools. Fortunately, I have the option approve or deny the comments people leave. Some of those who visit my blogs challenge me with questions that are obviously meant to entrap, inflame, and waste time. Answering does nothing but frustrate me and make the fool look important, so now I avoid them.

Interestingly, a recent study has shown that “anger is the internet’s most powerful emotion.” Therefore, it is very likely that we will encounter angry, irate, and irrational rants in some future cyber-conversation. The true mark of wisdom is knowing when to avoid getting into the fray, and when to calmly answer (26:5).

Unfortunately, too many of us in this day and age are falling for the fool’s folly and becoming “like unto him.”  Beware of conversational traps.