A Little Bad Ruins a Lot of Good

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 10:1–4 (ESV)
1 Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.
2 A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left.
3 Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool.
4 If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmness will lay great offenses to rest.

Understanding and Applying the Word

It only takes a little of something bad to ruin a lot of something good. This is the point of the first verse. A dead fly can make perfume smell bad and a little foolish behavior ruins a great deal of wisdom and honor. The second verse tells us that the heart of the wise inclines him to the right, which is understood as the right way, while the fool is inclined to go the wrong way. The third verse speaks of a fool who walks on the road. The road represents the right way. However, even when a fool walks along the road, everyone knows he is a fool as soon as he opens his mouth because of his foolish words. And the last verse tells us how to deal with an angry ruler. The best option is not to respond in like anger, but to respond in calmness and try to de-escalate the situation.

The Bible is filled with wisdom literature in places like here and the Book of Proverbs. The idea behind wisdom writing is to offer sayings that help teach us how to live better in the world. While there is difficulty and suffering and death for all in this world, there are certainly better and worse ways to live. Some actions and decisions have the tendency to cause trouble. Some actions and decisions have a tendency to bring success. The wise person knows this and seeks to make the best decisions.


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