Proverbs 10:26

Proverbs 10:26 "As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him."
Proverbs 10:26 Elma NY Baptist Church
If you like campfires, this proverb is unforgettable!  I think of it almost every time I enjoy a campfire because I almost always get smoke in my eyes.  Solomon was masterful at taking everyday occurrences and linking them to moral matters.  This not only made his proverbs understandable, but this teaching style made his proverbs unforgettable.

In this proverb, Solomon uses strongly unpleasant sensations to help his readers appreciate the impact a sluggard will have another person.  Tasting vinegar is manageable but drinking vinegar is strongly unpleasant.  While there are all kinds of vinegar and while there are all kinds of uses for it, vinegar in general is not pleasant to drink.  While the acidity of vinegar is not good for the enamel of teeth when consumed excessively, I don’t think Solomon is referring to long-term ramifications of consuming vinegar. By referring to a person’s teeth, I believe Solomon is differentiating drinking vinegar from tasting vinegar.  If he wanted us to imagine the sensation of tasting vinegar, he could’ve or would’ve written, “as vinegar to the tongue.”  But by writing, “as vinegar to the teeth,” it would appear that he wants us to imagine drinking vinegar because drinking fluids fill the mouth and cover the teeth.  Drinking vinegar is strongly unpleasant.  The prophetic psalmist when speaking of cruelty inferred as such when he wrote, “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (Psalm 69:21).
 
It makes even more sense to assume Solomon is referring to drinking vinegar when considering his usage of smoke to the eyes.  A little candle smoke to the eyes isn’t typically that unpleasant.  The wind shifting and blowing the smoke of a campfire or bonfire into your eyes is a different story and most unpleasant.  A lot of vinegar in the mouth is wildly unpleasant and a lot of smoke to the eyes is very uncomfortable.  In both cases, the unpleasant experience is immediate and intense.  When smoke hits the eyes, the conversation you were having stops.  When smoke hits the eyes, the beverage you were drinking rests.  When smoke hits the eyes, the thoughts you were having cease.  Smoke to the eyes is incredibly irritating.  When smoke hits the eyes, we instinctively begin rubbing our eyes with the fervent intention to make the irritation stop.  When smoke hits the eyes of a child, crying and flailing usually begin. No one likes vinegar to the teeth and no one likes smoke to the eyes.

In getting the imaginations of these unpleasant sensations into the reader’s minds, Solomon effectively helps us all appreciate the irritation a sluggard brings to his employer, spouse, parent or friend.  A lazy employee is irritating.  A lazy assistant is irritating.  A lazy spouse is irritating.  A lazy child is irritating.  A lazy friend is irritating.  When an employee doesn’t do what they were asked to do in a reasonable amount of time, an employer gets very irritated.  When a husband doesn’t do what they were asked to do in a reasonable amount of time, his wife gets very irritated.  When a child doesn’t do what he was asked to do in an appropriate amount of time, his parents get very irritated.  This proverb teaches us that there comes a point in time when a lazy person irritates people.  That time comes swiftly and intensely.

There are two applications for all of us to consider.  First, we should ask ourselves if we irritate the people in our lives by laziness?  If your husband asks you to get something for him and you don’t do it in a reasonable amount of time, you’re probably smoke to the eyes.  If your wife asks you to get something done around the house and you don’t do in a reasonable amount of time, you’re probably smoke to the eyes.  If your parent asks you to pick up your room and you don’t do for hours or even for days, you’re smoke to the eyes.  If your employer asks you to get something accomplished in a certain amount of time and you come up with all kinds of excuses as to why you didn’t, you’re probably smoke to the eyes.  If your friend asks you for a favor and you never get around to it, you’re probably smoke to the eyes.  What Solomon is saying in its simplest terms is this – if you’re lazy, you’re irritating!  If you’re lazy, you’re wildly unpleasant to someone very close to you!  Don’t be smoke to anyone’s eyes – be diligent and dependable.  Fulfill requests and tasks efficiently and sufficiently.

The second application has to do with our decisions.  Knowing how irritating laziness is, choose your partners carefully.  Don’t entrust an important message to a lazy person – you’ll only get irritated.  Don’t ask a lazy person to help you – you’ll only get irritated.  They’ll make excuses and leave you hanging.  They’ll show up late if at all.  Furthermore, don’t choose a lazy spouse because it will lead to a life of irritation.  Don’t raise lazy children because they’ll inflict a life of irritation on whoever falls in love with them.  They’ll also cause a lot of irritation in the workplace for whoever hires them.

Most of us don’t drink vinegar but almost all of us have had the wind blow smoke in our eyes.  Remember that sensation when reflecting upon any personal laziness as that is probably how you’re making someone close to you feel.  Remember that sensation when considering a lazy person for a relationship or partnership as that is how you eventually will feel if you proceed.  Lazy people are smoke to the eyes.  

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