There are three big topics that this chapter covers. Instead of a deep dive into a single thought, I want to show some verses about each topic and make a few comments.
1 As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.
2 As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.
3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.
4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
6 He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.
7 The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
8 As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.
9 As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouths of fools.
10 The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.
11 As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
12 Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.Proverbs 26:1-12
The word translated fool could also be translated as dullard, silly, arrogant one. However, in the King James Bible all 70 uses of this Hebrew word are translated as fool or foolish.
It is incongruous for a fool to receive honor (v. 1, 8) or have a bit of wisdom to share (v. 7, 9). Fools are not to be trusted (v. 6). They have more confidence in themselves than they should (v. 4, 5, 12). And, this passage about the actions of a fool gives us the one verse that was easiest for me to memorize as a grade-schooler (v. 11). What 12-year-old boy doesn’t love talking about puke?
13 The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.
14 As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.
15 The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.
16 The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.Proverbs 26:13-16
Slothful can be translated as sluggish, lazy or sluggard (one who is sluggish). With one exception, this word is found exclusively in Proverbs and is always translated as sluggard and slothful. The only other time it is used is Judges 18:9 and is also translated slothful.
Verse 13 speaks of not wanting to do something because of a potential danger. Certainly, if there were an actual lion in the street outside the front of my house, I would not want to go out either. But, based this comment being viewed as a bad thing, I think Solomon is talking about a potential lion or danger that may not be actual. The sluggard is looking for an excuse to stay home and do nothing.
His laziness keeps him in bed. His tossing to and fro in the bed is like a revolving door (v. 14). He’s even so lazy that he doesn’t eat (v. 15). He can make up excuses so fast for why he’s not working that it will make your head spin (v. 16).
This is being attributed to laziness, which I think is the primary point and needs to be addressed. But allow me to mention something else that this behavior might be a sign of: depression. There is help for depression. Let me encourage you to seek help for yourself or for others who may need it.
Don’t use depression as an excuse for laziness. On the other hand, don’t blame laziness for legitimate depression. The point is, you can get help for both. You might need external help to work through laziness or depression. I don’t mean to imply they are the same thing, they are not. But they often have the similar symptoms.
If you are needing help, talk with your pastor and get a recommendation for someone in your area who can help you with either or both.
The rest of the chapter deals with those who would stir up strife. The word here is talebearer, but it means a whisperer, murmurer or slanderer. Sometimes these talebearers pick a fight because of perceived conflict, but sometimes they do it for the fun of making others uncomfortable. Here are a few verses from the rest of the chapter.
Mind Your Own Business
17 He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.Proverbs 26:17
If you yank on a dogs ears, he will likely retaliate. If this isn’t your fight, stay out of it. Don’t jump into conflict that isn’t yours.
I will grant, that sometimes it is worth having to fight the dog for the purpose of saving someone else from the fight. This verse doesn’t say you should never jump to the aid of someone who needs it, but you should probably size up the dog before you start yanking ears.
You Are the Only One Who Thinks It’s Fun
18 As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, 19 So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?Proverbs 26:18, 19
I know some people who like to create conflict for the entertainment value. Getting people riled up “for the fun of it” is only fun for the one causing the needless conflict. No one likes it except you. Please stop.
I was in a conversation recently where someone jumped in just to say a few words to try to make another person upset. The instigator was disappointed when the person they were attacking didn’t attack back. This time it was done in jest, but that can’t be an enjoyable environment to have to deal with all the time.
No Fuel = No Fire
20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
21 As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is a contentious man to kindle strife.Proverbs 26:20, 21
You can be the one to quench a flame. You don’t have to retaliate just because someone says something negative to you. They may have brought the fire, but if you don’t give them wood to work with, the fire dies pretty quickly. That’s what happened in my recent conversation that I mentioned above: the person did not play into the game of attacking back.
Sticks, Stones and Words That Hurt
22 The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.Proverbs 26:22
It is not true that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Even as an adult—or maybe, especially as an adult—we find that damaging words can destroy relationships for a lifetime.
I have a couple of odd friendships (probably many of us do). I am friends with two people who hate each other. I can maintain a good relationship with both sides because neither one has offended me personally. Their words have not wounded me. As much as I may want them to be friends again, they have inflicted deep wounds on one another; wounds that neither side is willing to let heal on this side of eternity. All because of words.
Be careful of your words. Be diligent in your work. Be mindful of your self-centered foolishness.