A Parable in the Mouth of Fools
As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard,
so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
1. As we noted last week, the first part of this chapter deals with fools and their folly.
a. Vs.1 – Honor is not seemly for a fool.
b. Vs. 3 – A rod for the back of a fool.
c. Vs. 4-5 – The dilemma about whether or not to answer a fool.
d. Vs. 6 – Sending a message by the hand of a fool.
e. Vs. 7 – A parable in the mouth of a fool.
f. Vs. 8 – Giving honor to a fool.
g. Vs. 9 – AS proverb in the mouth of a fool.
2. Verses 7 and 9 are similar in that they both speak about a proverb in the mouth of a fool – but they each drive home a different point.
a. Verse 7:
i. It is just as incongruous and inappropriate for a fool to attempt to speak forth words of wisdom as it is for a lame man to attempt to dance for an audience or to run a marathon.
ii. There is something wrong with this picture! These things don’t go together… they don’t fit together. It’s like trying to put a round peg in a square hole. It doesn’t fit.
b. Verse 9:
• Solomon continues that theme.
• However, here he states that a parable in the mouth of a fool is not only inappropriate, it can be downright painful!
3. The parallel here is obvious:
a. The fool and the drunkard are being compared. It is obvious how a fool and drunkard are alike.
b. The thorn in the hand and the parable in the mouth are being compared. It takes a little thinking to discern how a thorn in the hand and a parable in the mouth of a fool are the same.
A thorn in the hand of a drunkard…
1. The first thing we might note in this illustration is the fact that a thorn does not belong stuck in one’s hand. It’s not supposed to be there. That’s not the place for a thorn. Thorns belong on a thorn bush—not in your hand!
a. Thorns did serve a purpose.
b. They made good hedges. A large, thick hedge of thorns would serve as a great barrier to keep the unwanted ones out. It would serve as a wall of protection.
c. Thorns were also used in the Bible as kindling for fires. They were thin and not good for much else. But because they were thin they dried out easily and could be gathered for a fire and got the fire started quickly. In their place they were valuable. Besides, burning them removed them from the farm or the camp and prevented people from harm.
d. Thorns were good in a hedge or in a fire—but not good when wedged and twisted into your hand.
2. The second thing that comes to mind about a thorn in the hand is the pain involved. It hurts!
3. There are several reasons why a drunkard might have a thorn stuck in his hand… none of which are good reasons.
a. If he wasn’t drunk, he would be much more careful around thorns. The reason the thorn went up into his hand was because he was sloppy, unstable on his feet, careless, and unthinking.
b. If he wasn’t drunk, he would treat thorns with respect. When something is dangerous (like a chainsaw), it needs to be feared and treated with respect. He did not respect the thorn bush for what it was.
c. Sometimes drunkards think that they can do anything.
• They think that they can swim across the lake and sometimes drown.
• They think that they can drive a car and sometimes crash.
• Drunkards think that they can drink whiskey to keep themselves warm, and then go skiing—only to find that they get hurt.
• They think that they can fool around on the escalator and sometimes they drop 20 feet on to the concrete below—like the drunken teenager in the subway station in Boston this week.
d. Drunkards like to show off.
• They show off by attempting to do foolish things to draw attention to themselves.
• I saw a drunkard eat a light bulb on a dare. That can’t be good for your stomach.
• Because of foolish pride, drunkards think that they can handle things that they are unable to handle and they get hurt in the process.
e. A drunkard lacks common sense. Therefore, he plays with fire (or thorns) and gets hurt.
f. Drunkards are usually insensitive to pain—until the next day.
4. Thus, a thorn in the hand of a drunkard is a good illustration because it can be applied in lots of different real life situations.
A parable in the mouth of fools
1. A parable (proverb) does not belong in the mouth of fools—just like a thorn does not belong in one’s hand.
a. A parable (proverb) belongs in the mouth of a wise man—but not a fool.
b. The wise man knows how to properly apply a proverb; a fool does not.
2. A parable in the mouth of fools can be painful—like a thorn that goes up into one’s hand.
a. A proverb in the mouth of a fool is not going to be applied properly. Therefore, it has the potential of doing more harm than good.
b. It can cause pain to the fool because it makes him LOOK like a fool. He will lose friends. People will not want to be around him.
c. But it can be painful to others as well—especially when the fool blurts out a proverb at an inappropriate time.
d. Proverbs, words of wisdom, and any portion of Scripture when misapplied can be painful as well.
• “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” (Prov.13:24) (This has been misapplied as an excuse for child abuse.)
• “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold.” (Prov. 20:4) (This does not mean that he shouldn’t—but that he doesn’t.)
iii. Or perhaps by quoting only a portion of a proverb: “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man.” A fool might end the proverb there and take comfort in the fact that his choice “seems right” to him.
• “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.”
• “I have more understanding than all my teachers.” (Psalm 119:99)
5. There are several reasons why a fool might attempt to speak forth words of wisdom and end up botching it up.
a. Because, like a drunkard, he is careless and sloppy with God’s Word. He might speak forth a proverb or another portion of Scripture without thinking it through… without meditating upon the real meaning… or without considering the context.
b. Another reason why a fool might misuse a proverb or words of wisdom from God’s Word is because he lacks respect for the Bible and doesn’t seem to mind misusing it for his own purpose. He might quote a portion of a Bible verse because the expression seems to support his argument—regardless of whether or not it actually does.
c. Like a drunkard who thinks he can do anything, the fool thinks that he can handle the Word of God—but he cannot. He does not know it; he does not understand it; he does not value it. Thus, he abuses it to his own demise and to the pain of others. It is painful hearing people abuse and misuse God’s Word. Not just anyone should be a “teacher” of God’s Word. They will receive greater judgment. There are consequences for abusing the Scriptures—but the fool doesn’t care.
d. Also, the fool lacks common sense to use a proverb wisely.
• He is foolish in handling the precious Word of God.
• The fool can make a silly application and think that he is wise.
• However, he can hurt others in doing so. For example, consider a young teenager in the hospital bed, whose body is fractured and in great pain. The teen was texting and got into a horrific car accident. That’s not the time to quote a proverbial saying like, “You reap what you sow.” The teen is learning the lesson by virtue of his or her broken body. They don’t need that truth rubbed in their face.
• A fool doesn’t have the wisdom to use a proverb properly. A word spoken in DUE SEASON, how good it is. But a word of wisdom spoken at the wrong time can be painful.
• It is painful to see such a thing. The fool will discover the hard way how foolish he really is.
• Job’s friends used proverbs—but not to edify. They used them to tear Job to pieces and to inflict pain.
e. The fool likes to “show off” how much he thinks he knows from the Bible by speaking forth proverbs and quoting Scripture.
• But his purpose is not to edify or be edified; his purpose is to show off how much he knows… to show off his “wisdom.”
• And the fool shows off by using verses that he does not really understand and misapplies them in foolish ways.
• This can be dangerous and painful—like a thorn stuck up into one’s hand.
• A proverb or wise saying from God’s word is like a sword. A sword can be used for good—or it can do a lot of damage.
6. Some have also suggested another application here:
a. Just as a drunkard is insensitive to pain, so that if he was pricked by a thorn in his hand, he would not feel it—so too a fool might speak forth words of wisdom designed to convict his conscience and heart—but the fool is insensitive to truth.
b. Thus, the pricking (the pain) which is designed to stir us to action, does the fool and the drunkard no good. They are insensitive to truth and thus the “pricking of conscience” does not lead to repentance.