The first twelve verses of Proverbs 26 are sometimes called “The book of fools”, as it largely deals with the actions and consequences of those who do not follow God’s wisdom. Remember, in Solomon’s day, there were only two general classes of people – those who followed God and sought after wise living, and those who did not, and were called fools. Sometimes the best example is the negative example, and a number of Solomon’s sayings around these negative examples are grouped together here.
“As a dog returns to its vomit,
so fools repeat their folly.
(Proverbs 26:11 NIV)
Solomon uses a rather disgusting truth to make his point in this proverb. Dogs have a very short-term memory of their own actions, and often repeat their same behaviors, thinking it will be better this time around. In the same way, we are fools when we repeat our same mistakes. The goal is to learn from our mistakes, not to repeat them.
Peter also quotes this proverbs in 2 Peter 2:22, when he talks about false teachers who have known the way of righteousness, and have turned their backs on God. They have tasted God’s grace, and return to the vomit of their false teaching.
“Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears
is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.”
(Proverbs 26:17 NIV)
Solomon is not talking about rescuing a family pet from a fight, but rather, he is talking about a street dog, a stray, that travels in packs with other stray dogs. This stray dog is undisciplined, and will see any form of discipline as a threat and will respond accordingly, most likely by biting the hand of the one giving the discipline.
Solomon says in similar fashion that the person who becomes furious over a matter that they are not party to, jumping in to take sides is a fool, and will get hurt in the process. This person will be rejected by both parties, as there is no relationship or trust between the one jumping in and either of the ones in the disagreement.
So what should our response be, if two people are in an argument, and we are tempted to let our emotions take over and jump into the middle of the disagreement? First of all, pray for God’s wisdom. Secondly, don’t engage in the argument unless invited in by both parties (which is very unlikely to happen, since neither one knows you). If you are invited in, establish ground rules about the upcoming discussion before agreeing to your involvement. If both parties will not agree to civil discourse (a discussion that seeks both points of view, listens with an open mind, and speaks with integrity, not slander or falsehood), then walk away.
“Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;
if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.”
(Proverbs 26:27 NIV)
Solomon is not talking about digging a hole in the ground for constructive purposes; instead, he is talking about digging a hole in the ground as a trap for another person, for evil purposes, to snare them. In the same way, Solomon is talking about rolling a stone towards someone, to harm them or crush them, again for evil purposes.
The whole idea behind both of these evil actions is revenge, taking matters into our own hands. Solomon knew well God’s command to leave vengeance up to Him (Deuteronomy 32:35), and not take it into our own hands. Paul repeated this same reminder in Romans 12:19. God will take care of the situation far better than we can every imagine, using the opportunity to bring those perpetrators to Himself.
Instead, we are called to love, not in emotion only, but in tangible action, as Solomon reminded us yesterday (Proverbs 25:21-22). May we choose to live to this higher calling and higher standard, accepting God’s grace and mercy when we fail, and giving the same when others fail us.