Devotional: Flies in the Ointment

Dead flies putrefy the perfumer's ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor. ~Ecclesiastes 10:1 [NKJV]

Imagine presenting your lover with the gift of the latest, most exquisite perfume on the market. Imagine the look of anticipation as she tears the wrapping paper away to reveal the ornate bottle of precious ointment. Imagine as she squirts a bit of the precious liquid onto her neck, expecting the sweet, scintillating aroma to waft on the air.

Imagine, instead, the horrid stench of death, the foul odor of decay. Imagine her trying not to puke. Imagine the sudden change of expression. Imagine you grabbing the bottle and holding it to the light...only to discover the ointment is filled with a hundred dead, decaying, dirty little flies. What you would need almost instantly is an odor free household odor eliminator, because that stuff is nasty!

I can't help but wonder if the royal apothecary had not suffered just such an indignity. Perhaps he had toiled away for months— maybe years— perfecting a new scent, one fit for the wealthiest and most glorious king on the earth. He may have waited weeks to gain an audience with the king and present his new fragrance. But when the box was opened, rather than the sweet scent of his triumph filling the air, there was a foul, putrid odor.

Somehow, after taking such care to perfect his perfume, the silly apothecary left it unattended - with the lid off! It must have been some time before he placed the lid on the box. And he must have done so without checking to be sure all was well with the ointment. Such a careless act for such an otherwise careful man! And now his great achievement was ruined. What ought to have been the sweetest scent in the kingdom instead had become a putrid substance, destined to be tossed out with the rest of the garbage.

Solomon drew the comparison to the damage a little foolishness can do to the life and reputation of a person otherwise respected and honored. He didn't have to look far to illustrate his point, either. All he had to do was remember the circumstances of his own birth.

Solomon's father David was Israel's greatest king. He was a man who loved and served Jehovah with all his might. He was a famous warrior, poet, musician, and leader. But one great act of foolishness brought destruction to his home and dishonor to his life. His tryst with Bathsheba caused such sorrow and suffering for himself, his family, and even the nation he loved and led.

It is remarkable - and sobering - how one moment of foolishness can taint a lifetime of honorable living. But it can. I speak from experience. I know how a little folly can foul the fragrance of a life. I know how the greatest accomplishment of one's life can so easily become his bitterest failing.

So, I urge you: Be on guard against the foolish whims of the flesh. Guard with care the sweet-smelling ointment of your lives, the perfume you are perfecting to present to your great King.

A Prayer for Today: "Father, I know that I have been foolish many times already. I am so grateful that You are a loving, forgiving and gracious God. I pray that I will be cognizant of how important and weighty my actions and words really are. May the things I do and say, the places I go, the way I conduct myself today bring honor and glory to You. Amen."