Wounds and Folly
"Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard. Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly." Proverbs 26:9-11
If I were to get out a bow and arrow, there is a good chance that I would hurt someone (or probably myself honestly...). That's what Proverbs says it would be like to hire someone who is a fool; everyone gets wounded. The spotlight of work, fame, or responsibility reveals what is inside. Fools don't listen. This is something we have learned all throughout this series in Proverbs, and Solomon makes it extremely clear that fools with information are not going to do anything but hurt themselves and others.
Wisdom is more than information; wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge at the correct time in the correct way. Wisdom is a skilled archer, but those who live as fools end up inflicting damage. Solomon also says that those who are unwise are like dogs that return to their vomit. If you have ever had a dog, you may have seen this happen in real life. It is not a pretty sight to watch, but it does provide a good example of how the foolish person lives. They go back to their mistakes over and over again and do not heed instruction. Don't be like the fool; learn from instruction so you do not keep committing the same foolish actions over and over again.
“The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly. Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears. Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” Proverbs 26:16-19
It is easier than you think to convince yourself that something is true. We are all capable of letting lies and falsehoods shape how we think. Then those lies start to feel like the truth and we may even begin to think that we have some secret wisdom or information that no one else has. Solomon even says that when we begin thinking this way, seven people who have sensible answers might not be enough to see the truth. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was doing something that was hurting themself or others and they just wanted to fight with you? Even if you brought a few friends to the conversation to help show the error of their ways, it may not have made a difference. Wisdom calls us to reflect and grow when the truth is revealed.
"I was only joking!" Have you ever heart that said after someone says (or does) something hurtful? I have experienced that before, and the pain of those arrows and fire are still real. I think if we can be honest, we would admit that we all have done this to some degree to a friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor. It's as if saying that we were joking makes up for the hurt that we inflicted, but that does not really change anything. If you have actually hurt someone with your words or actions, the best thing you can do is to go to that person and admit fault and apologize. Wisdom is not just learning some good principles, but it's about using what we have learned to grow and connect with other people. Maturity is being able to ask for forgiveness and seeking to mend relationships with those who are our neighbors. "I was joking!" might be a defense mechanism that keeps you safe, but we are called to a life that is greater than just protecting our internal feelings of being right. We are called to love our neighbor.
“Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling. A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” Proverbs 26:27-28
Look around. Are you digging a pit in your life right now? You can dig a hole in the ground and it might feel like you are making progress on something, but you are going to get stuck if you do not bring a ladder or some way to get out of the pit. There are actual pits we can fall into (you should watch where you are walking!), but I think there is more to this verse than an encouragement to watch where you dig. We can fall into a pit emotionally as well. Maybe you feel alone and that there is no one else around you who could understand. The pit keeps getting deeper and you begin to sink farther down into despair. At some point, you become surrounded by mud and you are unable to get out of the pit. At that point, you are going to need some help. Continuing to dig deeper is not going to bring you closer to getting out of the pit. Stop digging and recognize your need for assistance.
Reflect and Respond
Here is the good news. God can (and will) lift you out of the pit! David, Solomon's father, sang of this in Psalm 40:2 when he said, "He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along." So, if you are in a pit today, allow God to lift you out and set your feet on solid ground. Stop digging a deeper hole and recognize your need for help. God is faithful to lift us out of the pit in our moment of need.