Even though we have a whole market of products available to repel insects, flies, and mosquitoes – any insect for that matter – can still be quite a nuisance. Now imagine a time, thousands of years ago, when the same market of repellant products did not exist. Flies and other pests were overwhelming, not just as an aggravation to leisure times but also as a liability to valuable merchandise such as food, drink, or even fragrances.
With this context in mind, Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, provides this insight, "As dead flies cause even a bottle of perfume to stink, so a little foolishness spoils great wisdom and honor."
Solomon clarifies that little foolish things that slip into our lives can dramatically affect us. Moreover, little foolish choices can outweigh big wise decisions. Envision this Scriptural reality: foolishness weighs more than wisdom when one's reputation is on the scales!
When Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, there was no indoor plumbing, meaning people bathed less than once a week. The atmosphere was ripe with fleshly stench, and perfume helped mask the smell of disgraceful body odor. Because of the great need for perfume, the apothecaries held a position of honor in Jerusalem. The guilds belonging to them had special bazaars where they made their essential products available.
Understandably, the sweet-smelling perfumes sold in the marketplaces attracted flies. And if the flies succeeded in accessing the products, they could ruin the entire batch, causing it to smell bad through such effects as fermentation.
Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off a stench… -Ecclesiastes 10:1 (ESV)
But, even more interestingly, "dead flies," as directly translated from the Hebrew text, actually means "flies of death." This variation in understanding brings us to a greater level of clarity. It suggests these flies are considered to be CARRYING DEATH – transporting dangerous bacteria from dead carcasses to society. So Solomon is not referencing flies that flew into perfume and died. Instead, he is warning of a type of fly that carried death! These "flies of death" poisoned and contaminated anything they contacted. They may have been little things – just flies – but they caused massive destruction and loss.
Why is all of this important? Because it is a spiritual metaphor. King Solomon is revealing a spiritual truth through a natural occurrence. Therefore, it is helpful to read Ecclesiastes 10:1 in conjunction with Ecclesiastes 7:1.
Dead flies make the perfumer's ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. -Ecclesiastes 10:1 (ESV)
A good name (or reputation) is better than precious ointment…-
Ecclesiastes 7:1 (ESV)
The point is that the enemy wants to bring dead flies – the flies of death – into your life so he can destroy the sweet-smelling things in it. In this context, the sweet smell in your life refers to your reputation. It is the good name God is trying to give you in your community, business, and relationships – especially your meaningful connections.
Take a minute and think about this: What is your reputation?
There is no one you want a better reputation with than the people who know you the best. But unfortunately, this is often not our reality because, too often, the people who know us the best respect us the least.
We are all wrestling with little things, but these little things become significant over time. Therefore, we must be cautious about the little things – the little follies in our lives – because, as Christians, we must never be a stumbling block to someone in need of Christ. Of course, we can't always get it right, but please acknowledge this reality. If sin doesn't bother you any longer, there's something wrong in your heart, and you probably need to have a come-to -- or, back to -- Jesus moment! It's time to repent before the Lord.
Unfortunately, hypocrisy starts small. It's the little things in our lives that can lead to becoming a thoroughly hypocritical person, and no one wants this to be their reputation. The Pharisees were prime examples of this failure. They looked great on the outside, but they were still a mess on the inside. Don't let this be your story. Don't appear to be one thing when you're something else. One of the most powerful things the Church can do is stop trying to live in a realm of pretense and start living out authenticity.
My encouragement is for you to hear what Solomon tried to teach us: dead flies – little foolish sins – can creep into your life in one place and begin to outweigh the wisdom you are displaying in other areas.
If you're struggling with hypocrisy in the church, you're probably not alone – we all come short of our goal at times. But, if you are a follower of Jesus, you must take time to evaluate and acknowledge your reputation. Are you a hypocrite? Have you unknowingly allowed dead flies into your life that are now poisoning your meaningful relationships and bringing a stench to your walk with God? Perhaps, even stopping someone else from stepping into their meaningful relationship with God and others?
The people who know you the best should respect you the most.
Allow this to be your story.
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