A Little Idiocy Goes a Long Way (Ecclesiastes 10:1–7)

As a minister, I work hard to keep politics out of the pulpit. Of course, like most Americans, I have more than my fair share of strong opinions about what happens in my state capital and Washington DC, but it’s wrong for me—or any other pastor—to use my church position as a platform for launching partisan rants at you. Politics is neither my vocation nor my area of expertise. Now, don’t worry, I do not intend to rant today, either, but I want to use a political example from a few years ago without implying some hidden partisan intent. So, here goes.

Bill Clinton could have been a great president. I say “could have been” because, despite the overall peace and prosperity our nation experienced during his administration, President Clinton will always be remembered for his affair with Monica Lewinsky which, in the fullness of time, led to his impeachment and contributed to the general lassitude of his final two years in office.

A little idiocy, you see, goes a long way. Or, as the Preacher puts it, “Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench.”

The Preacher offers several examples of how fools destroy themselves through folly. “A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left.” In almost all traditional societies, the right hand is the hand of power, authority, and majesty. On the other hand—pardon the pun—the left is the hand of weakness, submission, and disgrace. In Latin, the right hand is dextra, from which we get the words dexterity and ambidextrous. The left hand, however, is sinistra, from which we get the word sinister. A fool always acts a bit suspiciously.

A fool is also self-evident: “Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense.” If that weren’t enough, when he opens his mouth, he removes all doubt that he’s an idiot: “he says to everyone that he is a fool.”

Unfortunately, a small folly casts a long, disproportionate shadow. In the hands of a politician, foolishness destroys opportunity and elevates the undeserving to places of influence. “Folly is set in many high places, and the rich sit in a low place. I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking on the ground like slaves.” Foolishness inverts the moral order of things, elevating the bad and bringing low the good. And when that happens in government, only the people suffer.

So, what should you do when a little idiocy is making its rounds? Stay clam. “If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmness will lay great offenses to rest.” The ruler’s anger that the Preacher speaks of is not righteous anger at an injustice, but rather the hotheaded rage of a stupid leader. When everyone around you is losing his head, the better part of wisdom dictates that you work hard to keep yours.

You see, a little idiocy goes a long way, but wisdom patiently waits it out.


Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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