Read verses 1-4
Q: Why is it significant that “perfumer’s oil” is specifically mentioned instead of just oil?
A: The more delicate the perfume, the more easily it is spoiled, unlike common oil which resists such injury. It’s a way of conveying that the higher a person’s religious character is, the greater the damage caused by even a small sinful folly within them. Throughout Scripture biblical prayer and offerings are described as a “smooth and pleasing aroma” before God.
Q: Why might it be appropriate to represent sinful folly as “flies”?
- Satan himself is called in Scripture “Beelzebub”, which literally means “prince of flies”.
- It represents the fact that “big” sin (e.g,, murder) is obvious in its effects, but the “little” sins which might be viewed as merely “annoying” are, in reality, equally devastating in their effect. It’s an example of Paul’s teaching, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough”. (1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:9)
- The verbs in this statement are singular but the noun is plural implying that it’s not the accumulation of all the flies together, but each one individually which corrupts the whole. It really just takes one.
Q: How does the illustration of the flies in the perfume in v.1 connect with the observation in v.2 that the heart of the wise leads differently than the heart of the foolish?
A: When it comes to sin, the wise man is generally much more on his guard than the foolish.
Q: How does v.3 continue this thought?
A: It’s a way of illustrating that rejection of God’s Word and ways and the pursuit of sin results in someone who even in their simplest of acts, and in the course of everyday events, is obviously headed in the wrong direction.
Point: The ironic thing is that such people, deceived and pursuing their own path, think everybody they meet is a fool just like them.
Q: How could this advice about dealing with an earthly ruler possibly relate to the previous discussion?
A: If this is the wise course of action in an earthly situation, it is even more appropriate in a spiritual context. It’s a way of stating that true wisdom is marked by faithfulness to God’s Word and ways and never straying from it, whereas the nominal believer (the fool) will acquiesce to the pressure.
Application: Wisdom does not guarantee that sin will be abolished and no longer an issue. Sin is always a choice whether it involves “big” sin or the annoying “little” sins. The mark of true wisdom is spiritual faithfulness regardless.