10 He that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow: but a prating fool shall fall.
What does the first part of this proverb mean? At first, this seems like a negative statement. Maybe it is, but it seems like the Proverbs provide contrasting statements, with one half of the proverb indicating a positive attribute and the second half indicating a negative.
The second statement is more obviously in the negative than the first. I like to substitute the word “babbling” for prating. Meaning, someone who speaks all their mind without considering the matter more fully or the effects their words will have.
Where is the contrast in this proverb? What does it mean, “he that winketh with the eye causeth sorrow?”
I don’t know for certain, because that is a strange sounding saying. I looked at other translations, and I did not find any of them particularly satisfying. Here are my thoughts, and I think the meaning I see is sound whether or not this is what the author of this proverb meant.
When I think of winking with the eye, in this context as a contrasting idea to a babbling fool, I think of a narrowing of one’s gaze, which is an indication of careful contemplation and consideration.
When we are faced with a difficult scenario and we carefully consider the matter and wait patiently for the right course, we can cause sorrow to those who want us to take their side hastily.
However, we know that a babbling fool will fall. In a world of contention, it is a good idea to find a matter out as fully as we can before jumping to hasty conclusions, lest we find ourselves banding together with the wicked.
There is another thing to consider. In many cases, if the wicked are over eager to get us on board, they are going to be very zealous about the matter.
If we get caught up in their strong emotions, and the cause is not just or is not handled in a just manner, then we are placing ourselves at risk of becoming even more foolish. How so? We are less likely to see the error of our ways when our vision is clouded by unrighteous zeal, which is often fueled by things like fear and pride.
Whether we are dealing with a small matter or a large-scale issue within our society, we should consider as much about the matter as we can before choosing sides. I have found, that when we do so the side that is most just will often lie within the middle ground. Most often, in any matter of contention or debate, both parties have valid points and both have errors. If we hastily choose one side without considering the difficult points that the other party makes, we can become very foolish.
As the scriptures teach, we should walk “circumspect as the wise,” meaning we consider matters from all angles. However, the scriptures also teach us that we can trust in Jesus in all things. Sometimes we don’t have the time, opportunity, or ability to search a matter out fully. If we form a relationship with Jesus, learn His ways, and practice applying His ways to our life, we can feel confident that the Holy Spirit will give us the understanding and proper response to any given situation as it arises.
Jesus said, “when they shall deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what you will speak; neither do you premeditate, for whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that is what you will speak. For it is not you who speaks, but the Holy Spirit.”
So, we see another kind of contrast. When we are able to find a matter out, we should, lest we jump to conclusions and align ourselves with the foolish. Yet, there are times when we cannot find a matter out, and we can trust in Jesus to reveal all things through the Holy Spirit.
In all things, whether we are searching for the right answer or waiting on the Lord, we can trust in Him—and let no hasty and foolish person lead you astray with their unrighteously zealous pursuits.
We do not want to be babbling fools, so we want to narrow our gaze and consider the matter. However, we do not want to narrow our eyes so much that they are shut to evil.
It can be tempting at times to turn the other way when faced with a difficult problem, but as Christians we are stewards of goodness and truth in this world—specifically pertaining to the gospel of the kingdom of heaven and the testimony of Jesus Christ. We cannot simply shut our eyes and go on with our lives. We are participants in this world, and in fact, we are told that the whole creation is in agony as it waits for the formation of the saints.
We should stand up for what is right. We do not turn a blind eye, and neither should we be hasty in our judgments. As Jesus says, “judge not after the outer appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” He can help us learn how to judge things more uprightly and keeping His commandments of love towards God and fellow man is a summation of it all.
However, as fallible creatures who are prone to death, we do not know how to love as we should. The curse of man is death. We spend our lives killing one another; literally and spiritually, and therefore our end is just. We too shall die.
I am thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of His sacrifice, we are forgiven of our destructive ways. Because of His resurrection and ascension to the throne of God, we are promised a new nature that is free from the bonds of destruction and we have an intercessor who speaks on our behalf when we go astray. Because of His faithfulness, all who God gave the Son will rise from the dead. He will keep us. So, we can trust in Him.
We are all foolish. We all need Jesus to show us the way, and just as He went after the one lost sheep, so will He go after us. Sometimes that means waiting for Him while the wolves in sheep’s clothing circle us, howl, and try to lead us to our doom. The Good Shepherd will deal with it. We should also note that the “hirelings” will run off, but those who are faithful servants of the Good Shepherd will stand strong, and “your eyes will behold your teachers.”
All things will be made known. The Day of the Lord will reveal much. We see some evidence of this even now, so seek Jesus while there is still time. Without Him, there is no salvation from the foolishness of the world and their destruction.