Like snow in summer and like rain in harvest,
So honor is not fitting for a fool.
Fools do not deserve honor, reward, and commendation, but they store up for themselves the judgment of God and the disrespect and wrath of men. The irony is that while many in the world hate believers on account of their testimony, they do not respect a lifestyle of sin. They know it is the easier route to take in life, and doing what is noble is more respectable even if it is not acknowledged as such.
2 Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying,
So a curse without cause does not alight.
It doesn’t make sense to wish somebody ill or seek to do them harm when they are righteous and undeserving of cursing. Righteousness will always lead to blessing from God with the fullness of that blessing coming in heaven. Those who reject Christ remain cursed and destined for hell.
3 A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
And a rod for the back of fools.
Those who continue to act as fools will continue to find themselves getting into trouble and being gluttons for punishment. They need discipline to be trained in righteousness, but unfortunately fools reject instruction and continue to do themselves and others harm.
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves,
That he not be wise in his own eyes.
It is not worth playing along with the foolishness of a fool, but a fool needs to be called out for his error with grace and love. Truth requires that believers do not laugh at evil and assent to treachery. Believers should not get drawn into foolish debates where truth is not actually sought, and they need to not learn the behavior and banter of fools. The only hope a fool has of seeing his own foolishness and then turning from it is to be confronted with the truth (Romans 1:16, 10:17).
6 He cuts off his own feet and drinks violence
Who sends a message by the hand of a fool.
Trusting in a fool to deliver an important message is just about a guarantee of things going wrong. A fool doesn’t care about honesty or loyalty, and he is not diligent to accurately portray the truth which he has been entrusted with.
7 Like the legs which are useless to the lame,
So is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
Fools might be able to quote a wise saying, but it is of no value to them because they don’t receive it, believe it, or put it into practice. Their hearts are wicked and hardened against the truth and sound wisdom. The only way for a fool to become wise is to stop being wise in his own eyes and to listen to instruction. It is not enough just to know the truth, but one must keep it. It is not enough to profess to love Christ, one must possess Him in their hearts. (see also verse 9)
8 Like one who binds a stone in a sling,
So is he who gives honor to a fool.
Praising the unpraiseworthy and honoring the ignoble is setting a dangerous precedent that evil is good and that righteousness is not valued. This will lead to others violating the rights of others and to a quick propagation of wickedness. (see also verses 1, 10)
9 Like a thorn which falls into the hand of a drunkard,
So is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
A drunkard will not be able to recognize a thorn from a piece of cotton, and he will harm himself and others with its sharpness. A proverb in the mouth of fools will be misspoken, misapplied, taken out of context, and manipulated for selfish gain and destruction. Even the truth of God’s Word is fodder for fools who enjoy making it say something that it doesn’t say. The end of this is much harm, deception, confusion, and destruction. (see also v. 7)
10 Like an archer who wounds everyone,
So is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by.
Those who enable and empower a fool and put their trust in him will regret it, for it will cause rampant harm, wounds, and pain for others. A fool cannot be trusted or given increasing responsibility. It will be dry powder for him to use for evil. It is wise to use discernment and discretion in terms of whom one trusts or hires.
11 Like a dog that returns to its vomit
Is a fool who repeats his folly.
Dogs can be disgusting and even confuse their own vomit with food and like it. This is meant to be deeply repulsive and disgusting, for what fools do by continuing to reject God, to despise Christ, and to fail to heed His Word is repulsive and abominable to God. God doesn’t just roll His eyes at evil, but He stores up wrath to repay. A fool is one who enjoys the junkfood and refuse of the devil and who is satisfied with idiocy and never even caring to find out truth, purpose, or meaning. He will keep doing stupid, rebellious things until it costs him his life and his soul. A fool doesn’t learn from consequences, but he keeps repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Pride is the archenemy of humility which is required for those who come to the truth. Pride rejects the need for a Savior, and pride puts full confidence in the flesh. Pride enjoys flaunting its own strength and independence, but Christ is the only all-sufficient One. Thus, those who harbor pride are the ultimate in being unteachable. A fool doesn’t have much hope of turning from his error, but there is always hope that one day he will recognize that the life Jesus offers makes Satan’s offers look like pig slop. A prideful person recognizes just that, but he still rejects God because he wants it to not be true so badly. He is willing to defy God to the end just so that he can remain on the throne of his own life.
13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road!
A lion is in the open square!”
14 As the door turns on its hinges,
So does the sluggard on his bed.
15 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
He is weary of bringing it to his mouth again.
16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
Than seven men who can give a discreet answer.
The lazy person may use fear and danger as an excuse for not trying and not working. He typically lies around in bed or on the couch and does nothing productive or of value to others. Even bringing his food from the plate to his mouth is laborious and wearying to the sluggard. He prefers that others would do all the work for him, and he justifies his behavior in his own mind. He thinks that he is full of wisdom, but he lives a life that manifests the reality of his own foolishness.
17 Like one who takes a dog by the ears
Is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.
It is noble to come to the rescue of somebody in danger, but it is also wise to be sure of what one is getting himself into before making assumptions that could endanger himself. Sometimes fights and strife are between mutually evil parties, and intervening in such instances is like provoking an attack dog.
18 Like a madman who throws
Firebrands, arrows and death,
19 So is the man who deceives his neighbor,
And says, “ Was I not joking?”
Some people lie and deceive their neighbor, caring not for the consequences and the harm and hurt that could befall him. Then, once the damage has been done, they try to argue that it was all just a joke. This demonstrates a lack of concern for others and a cavalier attitude towards friendship.
20 For lack of wood the fire goes out,
And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.
21 Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
So is a contentious man to kindle strife.
22 The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels,
And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.
Some people like to feast upon gossip and the latest secrets of other people’s lives. Maybe it makes them feel better about themselves to learn the dirt about others, or maybe they enjoy feeling like they have fodder for manipulation. Either way, those given to gossip are better off doing something productive and God-honoring rather than that which can only lead to malice, pride, contention, and strife. Gossip may seem like a minor sin, but sin is always destructive and leading to death. Contentious people like getting a reaction out of others and getting under their skin, but believers should be peacemakers, building others up and encouraging them rather than tearing them down and provoking them to anger.
23 Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross
Are burning lips and a wicked heart.
24 He who hates disguises it with his lips,
But he lays up deceit in his heart.
25 When he speaks graciously, do not believe him,
For there are seven abominations in his heart.
26 Though his hatred covers itself with guile,
His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
27 He who digs a pit will fall into it,
And he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.
The Bible is clear about wolves that come in sheep’s clothing, trying to deceive others and do them harm. They look like solid silver, but in the inside they are nothing but dirt. They speak grand words that sound like wisdom but are actually foolishness, and they lead to division and destruction. They have dark, wicked hearts, even though they may masquerade as light. Deceit runs rampant in the wicked person’s heart, though on the outside they may feign love, loyalty, and affection. They are master liars and skilled in using words to manipulate and exploit. Gracious speech is fake from a wicked person, for the desires of his heart are full of many kinds of wickedness (Proverbs 6:16-19). Eventually a wicked person’s deeds make his intentions manifest to those who desire to know the truth and be set free by it, for believers can know deceivers by their fruits (Matthew 7:20). Those who have spent their efforts tripping up others and laying traps for them will often fall prey to their own evil devices and schemes. They will certainly be paid back for their evil when God judges them in eternity.
28 A lying tongue hates those it crushes,
And a flattering mouth works ruin.
Those who speak ill of others and who spread lies about them do so because of hate. Love rejoices with the truth, but those who speak flattery do so not to edify or encourage but to destroy and ruin. Flattery might be described as “nice” lies, but they are still deceptive and thus destructive. Lying is not consistent with loving but with hatred.