Proverbs 26:18-19

The Bad Neighbor


1. Our proverb tonight deals with yet another form of bad behavior: the bad neighbor.

2. This proverb speaks of a man who makes trouble—and then excuses his bad behavior by saying, he was only kidding.

18 As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death…

1. Solomon speaks of a “mad man.”

a. The root word here means “to burn; to set on fire”; it is used of a rabid animal; it is used of irrational and senseless behavior;

b. The “mad man” Solomon describes here is a person who like a rabid animal burns inwardly with irrational behavior.

2. The mad man is casting dangerous things around:

a. “Firebrands” – a flash of fire or sparks.
• Perhaps this is a reference to a mad man who goes around lighting fires.
• It could be taken literally; or perhaps more likely, figuratively. Wherever he goes he lights fires of controversy and trouble… leaving a wake of smoke and fire in his path of destruction.

b. Arrows – He shoots arrows… either literally or figuratively.
• He may have literally shot arrows at his neighbor’s goat.
• Or he may be the kind of person who shoots off arrows of contention… arrows of gossip… arrows of backbiting… etc.
• One way or another, he is the neighbor who causes harm and damage every time he comes around.

c. Death – This term speaks of death or pestilence.
• And once again, this could be understood either literally or figuratively.
• Perhaps for fun he uses his neighbor’s goats for target practice… just for fun.
• Or perhaps he casts forth words of death and pestilence… hateful words… pestilent words…
• The term can also be understood as describing the firebrands and arrows – firebrands and arrows of death.

19 So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?

A. Deceiving His Neighbor

1. The illustration above is designed to teach us about a real life situation – a man who deceives his neighbor.

2. Deceives: Delude; betrays; beguiles; mislead; to lie; to deal craftily; pulling a trick on someone.

3. Deceiving one’s neighbor:

a. The term “deceives” implies that this is more threatening and malicious than an innocent and harmless practical joke.

b. Deception is involved.

4. The man described here is a troublemaker.

a. Like a mad man randomly shooting arrows, this man causes insult, harm, or injury deceptively.

B. Saying, “Am not I in Sport?”

1. The term translated “sport” means derision; laughter; making merry; mocking; playing; a game; to have fun.

2. Judges 16:27 – The same word is used of Samson when he became the “sport” for the Philistines. He was there to be mocked and ridiculed. This was clearly malicious and carried out with cruel intent.

3. The “merry making” of the man in our proverb is not done in good humor.

a. It is done to deceive. The man is lying.

b. His purpose is to harm and cause grief—which to him is funny… but certainly not to those he harms along the way.

4. Ecc. 3:4 – Solomon taught that there is a time for “laughter” (same word).

a. Joking, laughter, and merrymaking are all good in their place.

b. There is a time and place for everything.

c. Evidently, the occasion Solomon describes in our proverb is NOT such an occasion. The bad neighbor was laughing and making sport at an inappropriate time.

5. The one “making sport” in our proverb also makes jokes that are themselves inappropriate and in bad taste.

a. It is not just the timing that is inappropriate, but the jokes themselves are not appropriate.

b. Others do not think they are funny.

c. His jokes may be funny to him, but not to others.

d. To others this man and his humor are more like a wild arsonist going about lighting fires randomly… or a mad archer shooting arrows randomly. There is nothing funny about that.

e. Like one who lights fires and shoots arrows—he causes trouble and damage everywhere he goes… death and pestilence follow in his wake.

f. Eph. 5:4 – Some jesting can be evil—and immoral.
• Don’t misread this passage. Paul is not saying that jesting is immoral or “not convenient” (inappropriate).
• He is not condemning all jesting or joking.
• Rather, he is condemning the KIND of jesting that is inappropriate… which in context implies filthy jesting about inappropriate subjects.

6. Merely SAYING that “I am in sport” does not reverse any damage done.

a. Young people engage themselves in this kind of “humor” all the time.

b. They buy cans of spray paint to draw graffiti all over town—just for fun. But the homeowners and city officials don’t think it’s so funny.

c. They light fires in abandoned homes around the city and think it is a riot—but the fire fighters who risk their lives to put it out don’t find it very humorous.

d. They throw rocks or snowballs at cars… and cause accidents.

e. They go through a parking lot and slash tires and get a real kick out of it.

f. And then when caught their lame excuse is, “I didn’t mean to do any damage. We were only playing. It was only a joke.”

g. The judge who hears their lame excuse is probably not going to be swayed by their defense.

h. They think they are just harmless jokesters; but in reality, they are more like dangerous mad men.

i. It is true that they probably had not thought through all the damage and hurt that might ensue after their little escapade, but that is not an excuse.
• That only exacerbates the problem: they are thoughtless… mindless…
• With just a little thought, they could have avoided all that harm and damage.

7. Or what of the deceiver who figuratively cast firebrands at their neighbors by gossiping about them… spreading lies about them… or cheats them in a business deal—and then attempt to excuse their behavior (when caught) by saying it was just a joke?

a. If someone tells lies about another person as a joke (saying he’s an illegal immigrant; he’s gay; or he’s on drugs; etc.) it can do much harm.

b. The damage is already done. This is just like when you light a fire, the damage is already done.

c. To say that it was done in jest does not bring the burned down barn back… nor does it restore one’s reputation.

8. Matthew Henry said that “if men would consider that a lie comes from the devil… that would surely spoil the SPORT of it.”

a. God holds the man accountable to whose form of amusement causes damage and harm to others.

b. The difference between the madman casting arrows wildly and the man who deceives his neighbor in a “joke” is that the madman is not responsible for his actions; but the deceptive jokester is.

c. Another note of contrast between the madman and the one who makes sport at other’s expense is the fact that everybody knows that a mad man with arrows is dangerous; but the jokester can also be just as dangerous and damaging. It doesn’t make that much difference to the one who is injured or harmed!

9. On a lighter note, this passage also can be applied to a more harmless scenario: practical jokes.

a. While Solomon seemed to have something more sinister in mind (cruel jesting) in our proverb, it can certainly be applied to relatively harmless practical jokes.

b. Not everyone appreciates them. Be sensitive to the situation… to the personalities involved as to whether it is appropriate or not.

c. Also be careful that it does not result in bodily harm… or damage to property… or puts others at risk.

d. To throw a gallon of paint on a person as he walks out the door might seem funny to those throwing the paint—but it could damage his eyesight… it could damage property… and it will ruin his clothes. In other words THINK before you play a practical joke.

e. And remember that there is a time and place for everything… but in the wrong place or at the wrong time a practical joke can be completely inappropriate—and not appreciated by anyone.

f. Amusement at the expense of others is not always funny.

g. There is such a thing as crossing the line between harmless humor and mischief that causes harm.

h. Prov. 10:23 – “It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom.” Use wisdom. It takes wisdom and discernment to recognize the difference between harmless fun… and mischief that hurts.