I love proverbs. Every culture has them. Did you know that most cultures have proverbs about love? For instance we all know that “Love is blind.” Even for the French, love is mysterious: “L’amoure est aveugle.” The Germans say, ”Die Liebe macht blind.” “El amore es ciego” croons the Spaniard, and the Russians say, “Liubov’ clepa.” Ah, ain’t love grand! But mostly, my favorite proverbs are from Africa. I’ve collected a few proverbs from our family’s time of living in West Africa. Can you guess the meaning of these African proverbs? I’ll give you three guesses.
“A child’s fingers are not scalded by a piece of hot yam which his mother puts into his palm. “
A) Waste not want not?
B) Would a father give his child a serpent when he asks for bread?
C) Yams are healthy
“If a child washes his hands he could eat with kings.”
A) Lava las manos.
B) Cleanliness is next to godliness.
C) One human is equal to another.
The answers are—naturally—B and C.
Proverbs were important for the Jews of the Old Testament; in fact, there is a whole book of proverbs, aphorisms, or wise sayings. One aphorism is especially gross-out graphic. Though only rated PG (parental guidance suggested), you have to love it: “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).
No need to discuss why dogs do what dogs do; the proverb is not about vomit, but concerns fools and their foolish actions. A dog returns to its vomit because he can’t help himself. A fool by definition is foolish, committing folly at every turn. He can’t help it.
Folly is an interesting word. The Hebrew word has the same root as “evil.” Sometimes foolishness is just stupidity—or so we think; but often it is simply evil.
In our sophisticated twenty-first century world we would probably fight foolishness by starting a celebrity detox clinic to help a person fight his bad choices. You might hear someone on Jerry Springer say, “Folly is an addiction. We can help you break the endless cycle of stupidity.” Have you noticed that in our culture everything is fixed by awareness, education, and talk, talk, talk?
Foolishness is not stupidity. It is not a bad choice; and it most certainly is not an addiction. In my own never-to-be-humble opinion, there are very few real addictions. Foolishness is seen everyday in the lives of people who are not in love with God. Foolishness is not a disease or the culmination of poor personal hygiene. Folly is a deliberate turning away from the Creator.
If there is a solution for foolishness, is it to endure withdrawals, de-tox, Botox, or electric shocks? The Scriptures teach that foolishness is treated by going through the cross of Jesus, discovering how sinful we are in order to find a Savior is waiting to walk us through our sin-tox.