The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
A cripple trying to walk, run, or dance is a pitiful sight. His legs do not function as a coordinated pair. Being not equal in length, strength, or coordination, his movements are absurd, contradictory, distorted, and unprofitable. The lame should not try to dance.
In the same way, a fool using parables or proverbs to teach wisdom is absurd, distorted, contradictory, and unprofitable. King Solomon by this proverb teaches another indictment of fools (Pr 26:1-12). Fools should not try to be teachers.
Parables and proverbs are the dark sayings of the wise (Pr 1:5-6; Ps 78:2). They are the carefully designed means of teaching wisdom in few words, with striking force. Taken from every day life, they have a figurative meaning requiring skill and understanding to interpret and explain. Formed with interesting similes and metaphors for appeal and challenge, they are too much for a fool, who is a man without understanding or wisdom.
Fools should be taught; they should not teach. Fools should listen; they should not talk. Therefore, they should not have the honor of a public forum for their babblings (Pr 26:1,8). And they should be ignored or shut up by wise rebukes (Pr 26:4-5). This is God’s rule for dealing with fools, and you should consistently obey it (II Tim 2:16,23; Tit 3:9).
Their lack of common sense and/or spiritual understanding denies them any right to take the deep things of God’s word into their mouths. Their sinful living habits and profane treatment of religious matters preclude them from touching His holy things. They would do much better and be perceived more kindly, if they kept their mouths shut (Pr 17:28).
But it is impossible for fools to shut up and listen and learn – they must be babbling in their ignorance – for that is one of the chief marks of a fool (Pr 15:2; Eccl 5:3; 10:3,12-14). Identifying fools is easy: all you have to do is listen for the one talking the most. So fools in both the pulpit and pew vainly take up the Word of God and try to teach wisdom.
A fool thinks the sound and sense of words are equal – they need no interpretation – so the cripple stumbles into confusion and heresy. Sound bites are good enough for a fool. Why worry about context or the spiritual intent of words, he argues: the Bible means what it says, and says what it means. He does not know or understand the minister’s work of reading distinctly and giving the sense of a reading (Neh 8:8; Eccl 8:1; II Pet 1:20).
A fool thinks reading and study are the same – he assumes thinking and studying are the same – so the cripple falls without due preparation. Anyone should be able to give their opinion, he argues: we are all God’s children and have the Spirit to expound and teach the truth. He has neither the God-given aptitude for the work, nor invests the sweat to save him from doctrinal shame (Pr 15:28; I Tim 3:2; 4:13-15; II Tim 2:15; Tit 1:9).
A fool opens his mouth wide and belches about doctrine and principle – but his life never matches the Scriptures he uses – so the cripple stumbles and falls into the gutter of hypocrisy. He deceives some by his loud profession of faith and wisdom, but Jesus Christ will expose his pretences in the Day of Judgment (Matt 7:21-23). He fails one of the chief duties of a teacher – to be an example of the truth (I Tim 4:12,16; Tit 2:7).
Is this proverb literally true? Until you have heard a spiritualizing fool with the Song of Solomon or the parable of the Good Samaritan, you cannot appreciate just how ridiculous a dancing cripple can be. Until you hear a fund-raising fool abuse and twist the proverbial words, “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” you cannot fully grasp the danger and folly of a cripple on a balance beam. This proverb is indeed literally true.
Reader, what lessons can you learn here? Be swift to hear and slow to speak (Jas 1:19). Do not be eager to be a teacher, for they shall receive the greater condemnation (Jas 3:1). Silence is golden, especially if God or men have not called you to be a teacher (Heb 5:4). Make sure your life teaches louder than your words (Matt 23:14-15). Be thankful for God-called teachers and submit to them, for this is God’s means for your learning.
The Lord Jesus was no cripple. His legs were equal and very strong. He was perfectly fit as the greatest teacher of wisdom in the history of the world. His prudent use and interpretation of parables and proverbs was exceptional. He was greater than Solomon. His skill and power in teaching caused men to tremble in amazement and avoid questions (Matt 7:28-29; 22:46; Luke 4:22; John 7:46). Give Him the glory due unto His name.
Free Daily Proverbs Commentary Email