Written by Susan Kent

Rods, Dogs, Fire, and More!

Like my friend Brooke, I was asked to write a blog on a chapter of Proverbs that didn’t ring any particular bells for me in the moment. But, being eager to serve and loving to write, I immediately agreed. When I first read the 26th chapter of Proverbs, I was overwhelmed with its richness. I did my best to break it down, so let’s get started. This chapter is chock full of examples of futility, impossible outcomes, and waste. The first four verses tell us this:

Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
    honor is not fitting for a fool.
2 Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow,
    an undeserved curse does not come to rest.
3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
    and a rod for the backs of fools!
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
    or you yourself will be just like him.

At first I was pleased to know that an undeserved curse would be fleeting, and that it was okay to smack a fool with a rod (just kidding!), but verse 4 made me wince. Dang it. How many times had I done that? How many times had I responded to anger with anger? How many times had I returned bitterness with bitterness? I don’t often think of myself as a fool, but here it is in black and white. And we’re only on verse 4! This blog thing is going to be a little tougher than I thought. Maybe my ego would recover in the next section. Or maybe not. Here’s what the NIV translates in verses 26:6-10:

 6Sending a message by the hands of a fool
    is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison.
7 Like the useless legs of one who is lame
    is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
8 Like tying a stone in a sling
    is the giving of honor to a fool.
9 Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand
    is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
10 Like an archer who wounds at random
    is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.

Hold it right there! Didn’t God call me to share the message of His love and salvation? If I’m a fool (and we’ve already established that I am at least some of the time), I have the effectiveness of someone without feet and faint from poison in my veins. My foolish ways, whether I know it or not, are stunting my ability to share my love for God with others. Yikes! I had never thought of that before. His words in my mouth are lame when I behave like a fool. I don’t want that to be true, but it is. When others see me behave in ways that God calls foolish, why in the world would they listen to me? I’ve got to clean up my act if I want the full force of God’s grace and love to be seen in me by others. Otherwise, I’m a stone that goes nowhere, a weapon in out of control hands, and I hurt people without cause or concern. 

At this point in chapter 26, I’m getting pretty uneasy then WHAMO! I read this…

11 As a dog returns to its vomit,
    so fools repeat their folly.

AS A DOG RETURNS TO ITS VOMIT. I remember reading that long ago when my bible study decided to spend a year reading the bible cover to cover. I’ve thought of it many times since first reading it, and I’m disgusted by it each time. Actually, the verse doesn’t disgust me as much as knowing how true it is in my own life. When life seems uncertain, I return to worry rather than faith. When someone hurts me, I return to anger rather than forgiveness. When someone cheats me, I return to revenge rather than mercy. When someone withholds kindness, I return to bitterness rather than grace. My earthly options are nothing more than vomit. They are something I shouldn’t have in my system in the first place, but there they are. Then I chuck them up and dwell on them. Pretty gross, isn’t it. You know, when my little girls are sick, I’m the nurse. I make chicken soup, fluff pillows, read stories, etc until they are back in the saddle. Unless they puke. Then I tap out and Jeff, my husband, jumps in. I just can’t do it. I grew up on a hog farm scraping afterbirth out of stalls and carrying dead pigs to the haul pile, but I can’t handle puke.  In my spiritual life, however, I spend a lot of time around vomit. 

Okay, enough about bodily fluids. Let’s check out verse 12.

12 Do you see a person wise in their own eyes?
    There is more hope for a fool than for them.

I took this to mean that if a fool knows they’re a fool, there is hope for them. It’s when a fool thinks they’re wise that they’ve (I’ve) got real problems. Here’s how this usually plays out for me: There is a problem. It makes me mad/impatient/scared/confused. I think I’m smart enough to handle it without praying and seeking Godly counsel/biblical teachings. I mess it up royally. Rinse. Repeat. When I think of the times I’ve acted with wisdom, it always includes prayer and guidance. This proverb is a great reminder to me that I have no real wisdom on my own. Real wisdom comes from the love and guidance of my Heavenly Father every single time.  And here’s some of that wisdom now:

20 Without wood a fire goes out;
    without a gossip a quarrel dies down.
21 As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
    so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.
22 The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
    they go down to the inmost parts.

I would love to say that I’m not a gossip due to my spiritual fortitude, but that’s not exactly true. See, I really don’t get into gossip for two reasons. One, I don’t get to spend a lot of time with friends, and most of my friends don’t know each other anyway. Two, I have a mind like a sieve. Your deepest, darkest secrets are safe with me because I’ll forget everything you told me within 15 minutes. Even so, I should keep my guard up because God tells what our gossip and quarrelsome ways are; they’re kindling for a fire. And how many times have we been told not to play with fire? A million! Put the matches down. Our foolish ways lead to destructive and uncontrollable fires. And we don’t have to be the gossip to feel the negative effects of one. Verse 22 warns us that listening to a gossip will affect our innermost parts. No thanks! I’d like my heart and mind to be whole and healthy, thank you very much!

The final verses of Proverbs 26 leaves us with this valuable nugget:

28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
    and a flattering mouth works ruin.

Do you ever think of lying that way? I don’t, but it sure does make sense. When we lie, we are spreading hate.  I don’t think of myself as a hateful person, and I’m sure you don’t think of yourself that way either. But if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that white lies come out of my mouth from time to time. Usually for convenience (rather than tell a long story) or to spare someone’s feelings, but they are lies none the less. And often the receiving person is someone I love very much. If I think about those lies as showing them hate, I feel ashamed and anxious. It’s time to see those lies for what they are and be the loving person I desire to be.  I’ll also need to keep my eyes open for flattery. It’s not just the flattery that’s sent my direction, but the flattery I use to get my way or gain someone’s favor that’s a problem. As a follower of Christ, I need to be on guard for when I’m being a fool AND when the enemy is using me to make a fool out of someone else. Neither are pleasing to God. That last verse, short and sweet, packs quite a punch. Looks like I have plenty to keep me busy in my desire to be a better follower of Jesus.

Now that we’re at the end of Proverbs 26, you might be feeling a little humbled and a little ashamed. If you are, that’s okay – I’m right there with ya! Thank goodness for a Heavenly Father that will never give up on me and loves me beyond my comprehension. He gives me hope that I will grow in His wisdom and be a better follower of Jesus. Pray with me:

Dear God, show me clearly where I have been a fool. Convict my heart and mind to seek your wisdom and apply it in all ways in my life. Let me be a wise child, looking to you for guidance and correction. Lord, call to me loudly when I forget to pray and seek your wisdom. Give me discomfort when I’m far from you and fill me with joy when I’m fulfilling your plans. Lord, don’t let me be a dog who returns to my vomit. Teach me to be a teacher and a student of your wisdom and goodness. It’s in Jesus’ name I pray, amen.