26 As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.
Have you ever worked with someone that didn’t want to hold up their end? Have you ever worked a job where you had to oversee a team, and someone on that team would not follow direction or perform their job adequately?
If you have experienced either of these things, and I think most of us have in some capacity, then you can probably relate to this proverb.
How much more is this true for servants of Jesus Christ?
We do not want to be as “vinegar to the teeth” and “smoke to the eyes” for our brethren in Christ nor for Jesus Himself.
Thank God that Jesus is not an impatient boss or co-worker and thank God that He gives us everything we need to do the work He gives us to do. Even so, since we are not always aware of the provision of our Lord, it helps to consider these things.
When we hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven and believe it, we are being rescued from slavery to this world and we are entering into the service of the Almighty God. This means something, and we should take this “salvation” very seriously.
We need to find out what Jesus wants us to do as service to Him. We all receive something, and He never expects us to do more than we are given to do. He provides all that we need, but we need to communicate with Him. He also knows our frame as weak creatures in the flesh, so He is patient with us, but He also sends His Spirit to strengthen us and lead us—if we will listen.
If we are overly focused on the things of this life and we do not make our relationship with Jesus our priority, how will we hear Him?
If we substitute Jesus for career, friendships, and family, how will we hear Him?
If we substitute Jesus for concerns over the state of this world in the realm of politics and societal movements, how will we hear Him?
If we substitute Jesus for ministers, teachers, pastors, priests, and prophets, then how will we hear Him?
There is a time and place for all of these things, but in the right order. Jesus has to come first. If He doesn’t, then we are at risk of being deafened by this world. We cannot hear Jesus because we are too distracted, and even if He did speak to us, we would not recognize His voice because we are not serving Him as we should.
“My sheep hear my voice,” says Jesus. We need to follow Him, not this world.
Isn’t listening to Christian ministers, teachers, pastors, priests, and prophets, the same as following Jesus?
It can be in a sense. We are a body that is supposed to work together for the good of the Kingdom of God. However, there are many false leaders among us—more false than those truly appointed by God—so, if Jesus is not first then we might be misled.
We also remember that we are promised the Holy Spirit, so that we can have a very personal, direct link with our Lord and God. Though we need instruction, especially when we are new in the faith, and though we need support so that we can continue to grow ourselves and the Kingdom, we need to learn to listen to Him ourselves.
He can show us who the trustworthy brethren are. If we need a teacher, He will send a teacher. If we need a prophet, He will send a prophet. If we need some other support or help, He will send it. We can trust in Him to use the true body of Christ as He will, and all things will work out for the good of us all.
Though we do not judge any man as condemned, He also shows us who we should not trust. Some brethren are false. Some are immature. So, we trust in Him in all things and do what we can to help those who are weak in the faith grow—but we certainly do not submit ourselves to them.
Our churches, by and large, are run by unbelievers and spiritual children. How can those who depend on them grow, when those in charge are babes themselves at best? They are carnally minded, not spiritually minded according the Holy Spirit—because they do not listen the Jesus and the Holy Spirit—they listen to men.
They listen to men who had to etch out their own special place in the Kingdom by creating corrupt doctrines that have become mainstream. Many of our false teachings came to be in this way. They are rooted in pride, ungodly ambition, and a desire to rule over people. They do not make Christians strong followers of Jesus, but weak followers of man.
Even so, the mercy of our Lord is an astounding thing and our true brethren are peppered throughout all of Christendom. Therefore, we should be careful in our judgements. Many babes will receive mercy and grace.
Lord willing, many will receive mercy and grace by being made stronger and more mature. Lord willing, He will send more teachers, prophets, and ministers who can do this work. Lord willing, we will see a revival of the Holy Spirit among believers, and the carnally minded babes who are asleep in the pews will wake up.
I do not expect the immature to do us any good during times of trouble.
We want to be useful for our Lord and brethren during times of trouble.
So, we have to get busy about our Father’s business, and this means getting rid of all things we put in the place of Jesus. Anything that stands in His place “stands where he aught not.” We are not to worship antichrists of any form, but THE Christ. The living God!
He is alive. He speaks. He guides. He heals. He judges. He gives mercy. He hardens hearts, deafens, and blinds. He opens hearts, gives sight, and gives hearing. He kills. He makes alive. He wounds. He heals. “None can deliver out of my hand,” says the Lord.
If we belong to Him, we can trust in Him. So, let us keep moving forward. Trust in Him and not this world. Fear Him and not this world. When we are in the Hand of Jesus, we are saved from this world and from everlasting death. We enter His service and we will live forever. His service might mean death in this life, but the reward is immeasurable. We want to hear “well done, good and faithful servant.”
Do not be a sluggard servant that is as “vinegar to the teeth” and “smoke to the eyes” of Jesus and our brethren.
This is part of a series of articles considering the Proverbs from a Christian mindset and applying these lessons to present-day events. You can find all of the Considering Proverbs writings here. Subscribe to receive future posts by email.