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.


Never Learning

Proverbs 26:11

11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.

Out of Nourishment

Dogs have this nasty habit of trying to eat their own vomit!

We know it is gross, but do we understand why?

  • Vomit is full of stomach acid, and the esophagus is not meant to handle the acid long. It burns away the lining.
  • Vomit is full of half-digested food. It has already provided its nourishment. There is no more to be had in the food.
  • Vomit is pre-poop! (Something else dogs occasionally eat … see previous point!)

It is not good for a dog (or anyone) to eat vomit!

Out of Sense

The more we do a task, the more ingrained it becomes. If that task is not good for us, it gradually wears us down.

Just like a dog eating its vomit, if we continue sinning, it is like our soul is vomiting and then consuming it again. It wears us down, and our soul gets more sick.

A fool will think it is funny (and probably giggles when reading “pre-poop”!) and see no harm when a dog eats its vomit.

A fool also repeats and celebrates sin.

And in the process, the fool slowly kills his or her own soul.

Giver of Life, do not let us continue to destroy our souls and bodies. By the name of Jesus give us the wisdom to turn from our sin, the strength to follow through, and the grace to forgive ourselves and grow beyond our sin.


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).


Drunk or Stupid?

Proverbs 26:9 

As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouths of fools.
A proverb in the mouth of a fool is like a thorny branch brandished by a drunk. (NLT)

It is interesting that Solomon compares drunkards brandishing strange weapons with fools attempting to speak parables of wisdom. The church I belong to has plenty of experience of drunks. In recent years several nearby commercial properties have been converted into pubs or nightclubs, and the area changes at night, particularly on Friday and Saturday. For the last ten years or so we have opened our church foyer from midnight every Saturday until 03:00 hours on Sunday to serve hot and cold (non-alcoholic) drinks to the clubbers and provide a place of safety where they can sit a while, sober up, wait for a taxi, find a listening ear, etc. This ministry is called Nightshift.

The listening ear bit can be painful at times, particularly when attempting to listen to the inebriated. We often get asked questions about God, the church, the Universe, and anything else someone who has had too much to drink decides that they want to discuss. Sometimes our guests try to impose their wisdom on us, the problem being that wisdom is usually absent in the early hours of Sunday morning when they have been drinking for several hours and Nightshift team members are stone cold sober.

Unfortunately a foolish person attempting to dispense words of wisdom sounds no better than a drunk stumbling over his words and drooling down his chin. There is a word of warning here for us all. We may never have experienced burbling like a drunk, but if we speak too soon, too quickly, or without thought, we run the risk of being no better than a drunk, and possibly worse. It wasn’t a proverb of Solomon, but the best advice I ever heard was “to put your brain in gear before putting your mouth into motion.”


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).


A Fool’s Errand

Proverbs 26:6.

“He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.” (KJV).

Teaching about Fools:

For the past several days on Proverbial Thought, we have been reflecting on Solomon’s wisdom concerning fools:

Click on the links to review, or read them for the first time if you haven’t done so yet! Anyway, Solomon continues his teaching on fools here when he says: “Trusting a fool to convey a message is as foolish as cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison!” (NLT).

Don’t Trust a Fool:

The Bible gives us this sage advice: Don’t trust a fool! I think it’s interesting that we have a figure of speech in the English language called a ‘fool’s errand.’ This simply means a fruitless undertaking, something that is completely absurd, useless or hopeless. In other words, to ask a fool to do something for you is, well, foolish. It’s a stupid as cutting off your own feet – you’re only hurting yourself. When the foolish person doesn’t do what you asked them to do, you will have to either waste time now having to find someone else to do it for you, or you may even end up having to do it yourself.

Trust a Wise or Faithful Person:

If it is foolish to trust a fool to do a job for you, then the flip-side is also true: You are smart if you choose someone who is wise, faithful or trustworthy to do something for you. Jesus Himself said, “Who is a faithful, sensible servant, to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his household and feeding his family?” (Matthew 24:45, NLT).

Let us be Faithful:

Now some of you may never find yourself in a leadership position, having to hire or choose someone to get a job done. But as Christians, all of us are called to serve the Lord and serve His church. So let us be found faithful even with the smallest tasks the Lord asks of us, and He will reward us. If you have a job to do, do it heartily as unto the Lord, and do it with a spirit of excellence! As we do this, God will be glorified. Amen!