Proverbs 26:6-7 (ESV)
6 Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool
cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.
7 Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless,
is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
When recruiting help, turn to those who have proven trustworthy. If you discover a reliable and like-minded person to labor with, it’s as if your two hands have become four, and your feet have also doubled in number. Twice the amount of good work can be accomplished. But entrusting a fool with your message is as dumb as cutting off your own feet or drinking poison. The lame man may have legs and the potential to walk, but yet because of impairment, his legs are completely useless to him. In the same way, a foolish man can utter a wise statement, but because he doesn’t put wisdom into practice, it is equally useless. It makes no impact on his behavior and can actually generate a false sense of security. Even if you are desperate for help today, don’t turn to the fool. Wait for someone who is humble and teachable rather than one who rejects God’s wisdom.
Proverbs 26:3-5 (ESV)
3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
and a rod for the back of fools.
4 Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.
The charioteer used a whip to drive his horses ahead. A bridle was used to direct the path of the donkey, even along difficult and unstable grounds. In the same way, the rod, or force is necessary to drive and direct the fool, who refuses the way of wisdom. Because of the fool’s lack of understanding, the righteous woman must be thoughtful and even shrewd when communicating with the unwise. The upright should never reply to the fool’s insults with further insults. In doing so, she would become foolish like him. At the same time, when the fool boasts as if his own logic is superior to the wisdom from God, it’s time for the righteous to speak up and show the fool the error of his reasoning. We must never behave like the fool, yet we must respond intelligently to his stupidity. In both cases, the hope is that the fool will wise up and ultimately repent.
Proverbs 25:28-26:2 (ESV)
28 A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls.
26 Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
so honor is not fitting for a fool.
2 Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying,
a curse that is causeless does not alight.
A plundered city, left without walls, has no way to defend its citizens. Strangely, the woman without self-control is like the helpless city. Her failure to keep her emotions subdued leads to her ruin. Her passions drive her thoughts and actions rather than the wisdom of the Lord. She makes foolish decisions, and must live with the consequences of impatient and impulsive behavior. She is a liability to her community and easy prey for the enemy. She’s eagerly lured into sin and quickly chases after temptation. When a community elevates this type of person, things are upside down and as out of place as summer snow or rain at harvest time. To curse the righteous is as ineffective as trying to ground a bird in flight. How well do you control your emotions? If you are tossed around by your feelings, call out to God for help. Seek his face, trust his word, and rely on his Spirit today.
Proverbs 25:25-27 (ESV)
25 Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
so is good news from a far country.
26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain
is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
27 It is not good to eat much honey,
nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.
Cold water was given to a weary person as her overworked body drew near physical exhaustion. The anxious soul could become extremely troubled as she awaited good news about a loved one far away. The report may have taken weeks or months to receive. In both cases, the righteous one was called to patiently wait and endure hardship. The upright woman who caves in to temptation, joining the wicked, is as much of a let down as contaminated water. The water, which had potential to bring refreshment and life, became polluted, and ended up good for nothing. To exalt self is as foolish as eating too much honey. Both lead to unwanted problems. What are you being tempted by today? You may think you can handle a little compromise and flirt with unrighteousness, but in the end there’s far more at stake than just you. When you stumble, so do those who are watching.
Proverbs 25:23-24 (ESV)
23 The north wind brings forth rain,
and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.
24 It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
Just as the north wind brings cold temperatures and a sharp chill to the air, the gossip or the slanderer’s words generate icy stares from the community toward the one whose reputation she’s trashed. The damage is done secretly, and the victim often is clueless as to what took place. A wife’s negative and hostile speech is just as ugly and injurious as the words of the slanderer. Facing the freezing wind from an unprotected rooftop is preferable to living with a bickering spouse. So much harm can result from our sinful use of words. We may think we are powerful or clever because we can gossip or nag or manipulate others and end up getting what we want, but in the end God knows exactly what’s going on. If you are someone who pushes and pushes until you get your way, today is the day to stop. Put your trust in God rather than incessant words.
Proverbs 25:21-22 (ESV)
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
22 for you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the Lord will reward you.
The wise father teaches his son that when he sees the neighbor who hates him in need, hungry or thirsty, he should give his enemy food to quench his appetite or water to quench his thirst. Why in the world should the son respond with kindness to one who hates him? By doing this, the son will drive his enemy to repentance, and in addition, God will repay the kindness. The burning coals mentioned are probably the good deeds themselves, which create a sense of shame within the hateful neighbor. The reward God promises may even refer reconciliation between the two who are at odds. How do you treat those who set themselves against you? Do you extend kindness to them, in the same way Jesus extends his kindness to you? Or do you demand repayment from those who have hurt your feelings? God’s children should be known as compassionate and not vengeful.
Proverbs 25:18-20 (ESV)
18 A man who bears false witness against his neighbor
is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow.
19 Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble
is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.
20 Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart
is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day,
and like vinegar on soda.
The ancient warrior used special weapons for different types of battle. The war club was effective for fighting up close. The sword was also for close up fighting, yet with some space between opponents, and for battling at a distance, the fighter chose the arrow to defeat his enemies. A neighbor who turns against her friend is as lethal as any of these weapons. The associate who is not reliable is like a rotten tooth or feet that fail to hold up the body. Both are a huge disappointment to the one who trusts their support. Finally the friend who sings joyful songs to the discouraged is like taking a warm jacket off in the cold air, pouring stinging vinegar on a wound, or the mixing of two substances which create a violent explosion. Be sensitive to your friends’ needs. When they are broken, grieve with them. When they rejoice, then you can laugh and celebrate.
Proverbs 25:15-17 (ESV)
15 With patience a ruler may be persuaded,
and a soft tongue will break a bone.
16 If you have found honey, eat only enough for you,
lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.
17 Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house,
lest he have his fill of you and hate you.
The gentle person brings wisdom to others, helping them to see things from God’s perspective rather than their own. In contrast to hard bones which frame the body, the soft tongue or carefully chosen words are able to shatter the most resistant opponent. Honey is sweet and beneficial, but like all good things, must be enjoyed in moderation. In the same way, we must employ reasonableness in relationships. Though friendship is a blessing, we all need personal space. Don’t overstay your welcome. When you want to get your point across, do you raise your voice? Or do you remain composed, yet state things in a mean and hurtful way? Neither method is as effective as speaking the truth with gentleness and respect. Don’t interfere with God’s work by jumping in between the Lord and the person you are advising. Move out of the way, giving others opportunity to hear from the Spirit, rather than just you.
13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest
is a faithful messenger to those who send him;
he refreshes the soul of his masters.
14 Like clouds and wind without rain
is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.
Harvest time occurred during the hottest months of the year, and to energize the laborers, people were sent to the high mountains to obtain snow, which was used to cool beverages and refresh weary workers. In the same way, the one who brings an honest report to her boss is like an invigorating drink. Even if the news isn’t positive, at least it is true. The message recipient can go on to make wise decisions, rooted in faithfully transmitted information. Clouds potentially meant rain, which resulted in much-needed showers for crops and the sustenance of life. The person who promises to give and yet doesn’t follow through is as disappointing and discouraging as clouds without water. The dishonest woman is cruel and heartless. What about you? Do live up to the promises you make? It’s better to think before you speak than to get someone’s hopes up and not follow through.
Proverbs 25:11-12 (ESV)
11 A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
12 Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
The fitly spoken word results after a wise decision has been made, due to the careful gathering of information. The round apple, along with its fragrant smell, illustrates the beauty of a good choice. The silver setting compliments the aroma of the apple, by placing wise words in a proper setting. Both the one who speaks good words, the wise reprover, and the one who embraces the wisdom, the listening ear, are valuable. Do you invest into others by gently speaking truth to them at the proper time? Do you encourage them when they are suffering, helping them to join you on the path of righteousness? Or does it feel like too much work for you to pour into those who are broken? As long as a person is willing to hear, keep speaking God’s truth to her soul. Honest words, spoken with gentleness and respect, often generate permanent and positive change in the lives of those who receive their instruction.