A Fly in the Ointment

November 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Posted in Common Expressions, Ecclesiastes | 8 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.

Don’t Ruin Your Name

September 10, 2012 at 10:03 am | Posted in Ecclesiastes | 4 Comments
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A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.

Ecclesiastes 7:1

Your “name” (your reputation) is a precious thing. In Bible times ointment was expensive and precious. It could be used for medicinal salve or for perfume, but it could be easily spoiled. One little dead fly could ruin a whole batch of ointment. Don’t ruin your name.

The name “Judah” meant “praise” in the Old Testament, but the name “Judas” is now forever associated with treachery and betrayal because of the act of one man. I have no idea what the names “Adolph” or “Hitler” brought to mind prior to 1930s Germany, but they certainly haven’t been very popular names since then. Do you know any “Adolphs?” Did you go to school with a kid named little Timmy Hitler Smith? What about Charles Manson Jones? Those names were pretty much ruined by the deeds of evil men.

Ointment in the Bible was good, but it was fleeting. It had an expiration date. A good name is something that can be passed on from generation to generation. It can earn and carry with it trustworthiness. Cherish and protect your name by living your life according to the principles of the Bible.


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