Day 24: Portrait of a fool (10:1)
“Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour” (10:1).
According to the KJV, the words “fool” or “folly” are used nine times in this Chapter (10), which is mainly about the way of wisdom as being the appropriate antidote to living life under the sun. The bottom line is foolishness can undo and undermine all the good that wisdom has achieved or might achieve in the future.
“Dead flies can make a whole bottle of perfume stink, and a little stupidity can cancel out the greatest wisdom. It is natural for the wise to do the right thing and for fools to do the wrong thing. Their stupidity will be evident even to strangers they meet along the way; they let everyone know that they are fools.” (10:1-3 GNT.) Dead flies in a bottle of ointment, presumably expensive and valued because of its fragrance, is an example to apply and to avoid – since all the good that may have been achieved through the application of wisdom is then undone – possibly in an instance. But we can all probably and sadly think of examples when this happens in real life. Similarly, we can see examples of wise people doing the right thing and fools doing the wrong, and seeing how people, who don’t know who’s who when meeting strangers, react to the wisdom and foolish respectively that they may have seen – making it all too clear which side we ought to be on.
Before considering something ironic, notwithstanding the truth of the above, the Preacher offers some sound advice concerning life under the sun when he paints a scenario that we may well have experienced personally and why our keeping a cool head when under the proverbial cosh is good: “If your ruler becomes angry with you, do not hand in your resignation; serious wrongs may be pardoned if you keep calm.” (10:4 GNT.) So back to our “wish you were kidding but I know you aren’t” point and yet again something we may often observe – concerning those in government or running departments of whatever maybe – those who are in charge may well be stupid people, and as for those who we may deem more worthy – they are passed over. It is unjust, but then we are back to how life is under the sun: “Here is an injustice I have seen in the world – an injustice caused by rulers. Stupid people are given positions of authority while the rich are ignored. I have seen slaves on horseback while noblemen go on foot like slaves.” (10:5-7 GNT.) If there is a lesson to learn, before we move on to more profound stuff to do with wisdom, is that however unfair etc. life may be, given fools seem to prosper, it is always well to be wise and it is how we should be.
Prayer: We thank you Lord for the reminder that a small amount of folly can undo the good achieved by a lot of wisdom. Preserve us from doing foolish acts, we pray, and even when we see fools prosper, may we choose to do what is right.