Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool. – Proverbs 26:1
Snow shows up again in today’s passage. I guess I am surprised that snow is such a thing in this part of the world. I assumed the climate was too warm, even during the winter.
This proverb is one of several adjacent proverbs that focus on fools. This term is not really used that often in the circles I run with. A fool in my mind is someone who has difficulty coping with situations others could successfully navigate. I think the “fool” being described here, and in adjacent proverbs, is referring to someone who is a “fool” by choice rather than as a result of a learning disability or injury.
Both of the similes in this passage relate to water…”snow in summer” and “rain during the harvest”. What do these have in common? They are: 1) unexpected; 2) out of place; and 3) potentially damaging. These attributes also apply to people who are fools by choice.
I have traveled to Haiti many times and as I write this blog I am riding on a bus with 15 students to Accra, Ghana. In my experience in Haiti and Ghana expecting the unexpected saves one a lot of trouble and stress. A colleague calls this “situational awareness”. A fool fails to anticipate the unexpected, and therefore, encounters it more often.
Fools also often seem as though thy are out of place — like “snow in summer”. This could be in a physical sense as is featured in the “jackass” franchise; or in terms of relationships when a person places themselves in relationships that are harmful or destructive.
I have done my share of foolish things physically. For example jumping off the 20-foot high roof of my parents house…I am reminded of this each morning as my lower back creaks and groans (followed by my groaning). My excuse was youthful foolishness. As I get older and wiser I am more aware of my limitations.
I am also no stranger to being in the wrong place relationally. When I was growing up my family struggled with effective communication. This was true between siblings and between us kids and our parents. This gave rise to quite a few times when I felt out of place, even in my own family. I am learning better communication skills but it is a process, and I still sometimes feel rather foolish in this area. I think true “fools” are those who are unwilling to learn how to communicate effectively so they can navigate their place and role in relationships.
Fools can also be potentially damaging, “like rain during harvest”. The damage comes as a result of the fact that they are unexpected and out of place. Harvest time in this part of the world was a dry time when the wheat and other grains could mature and dry for proper storage. Rain during harvest created all sorts of problems with sprouting seeds, mold, etc. The consequences of foolish behavior range from mild embarrassment to life-shattering schisms. The damage can last lifetimes and even generations.
One example that occurs to me from my float through the bible so far is King David. Perhaps it is somehow wrong to say it, but David was a “fool” when he chose to steal the “sweet water” whose name was Bathsheba. He was even more of a fool when he tried to cover up his foolishness by killing Uriah. The consequences of David’s foolish behavior were felt for generations.
Prayer: God help us to avoid foolish behavior and to forgive the foolish behavior of others.
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