A Fly In The Ointment

Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. (Ecc. 10:1)

Lately, flies have been getting into my house.  Few things irritate me more than a buzzing, vile housefly terrorizing me all over the place.  From childhood I was taught that flies were nasty and should always be shooed away or killed if possible.  Later on, in school I was taught about how flies were born, lived, and spread disease.  I have had way too much experience seeing them around dead, rotting flesh and bodily discharges.  Where is that fly swatter when you need it?

It’s interesting that the phrase “a fly in the ointment” originated in the Bible.  Nothing is more sickening than when a fly lands on and crawls around on clean dishes, delicious food, a helpless infant.  (Remember those appeals on television for donations to charitable organizations for starving children in third-world countries?  If you saw them, you know how strong the impact was.)  Such a small thing causes so much misery and repugnance in our daily lives. 

Notice how the preacher in Ecclesiastes uses such a nauseating analogy to drive home the truth about foolishness in a person’s life.  Dead flies in the perfume not only ruin it, they cause it to give off a stinking odor—the very opposite for the purpose it exists.  And don’t miss that he says it takes only a little folly, just like it only takes a little fly to ruin things.

How easy it is for us to dismiss the foolish “little” things as if they don’t have a lot of impact.  Physically, we know the power of a germ.  Soap, sanitizer, water, disinfectant, clean hand towels, etc. are important things among civilized people.  The cancerous cell, the microscopic virus, the small cut are things we have learned that wreak havoc on our bodies.

Do we also understand how the “little” things can wreak havoc on our souls?  Proverbs is full of healthy instruction about the danger of foolishness.  “Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense (wisdom), but a man of understanding walks straight ahead” (Prov. 15:21).  As we continue to read in Ecclesiastes 10:2-3: “A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left.  Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool.”  Sin is the fly in our life.  And it’s disgusting!  It’s deadly!

We need to clean up our lives, get rid of the dead flies that infect us and make us stink to God and to others.  We do that first and always through the blood of Jesus Christ.  “…how much more will the blood of Christ…purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14).  “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).  Are you washed in the blood? (Rev. 7:14).

We must heed James’ admonition to “cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your heats, you double-minded…humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 1:8, 10).