A Fly in the Ointment

November 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Posted in Common Expressions, Ecclesiastes | 7 Comments
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Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.

Ecclesiastes 10:1

The “apothecary” in this verse is what we would call a perfume-maker or possibly even a pharmacist. Ointment was used in Bible times for ceremonial anointing, perfume, and even medicinal salve at times. The popular expression, “a fly in the ointment,” comes from this verse, and it means a hidden defect or flaw in something that otherwise would be beneficial. Sometimes, just a tiny little mistake can cause a great deal of harm.

Can you imagine spending days or weeks perfecting the perfect concoction of spices, herbs, and oils, only to have the whole batch give off a disgusting odor because a miniscule, unobserved fly had landed in it and started to decompose? That’s what a little sinful foolishness can do to your testimony. Trust, honor, integrity, and character – and especially a reputation for wisdom – are things that are built up and cultivated slowly over time. However, they can be lost in an instant. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to guard our hearts, minds, eyes, and ears, and let’s keep our Bibles poised like holy flyswatters, always on alert for the tell-tale buzz of temptation.


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