Proverbs 26:8

As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.

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Fools are not worthy of honor or respect; they should rather be despised and rejected. Since wisdom is noble and holy, wise men should be honored; since folly is evil and profane, honoring a fool is contrary to all godly sensibilities. It is as wrong and confused as tying a stone in a sling, so it cannot come forth when the effort is made to throw it.

A sling was made of a small piece of leather, with a thong attached to each of its two sides. With a stone on the leather, it was whirled once or twice and one thong released, which threw the stone with great force. David killed Goliath with a sling, and Benjamin had 700 left handed slingers, who were incredibly accurate (Judges 20:16). The rounded stones ranged from golf ball to tennis ball size and could be thrown beyond 400 meters, with historical evidence that marksmen could pick the point on an enemy’s face to hit.

If a stone were bound in the sling, when the release thong was let go, the stone could not leave the sling. However, the pent up centrifugal force could cause the stone, bound in its pouch, to hit you in the face! At the least, binding a stone in a sling was totally counterproductive and wasteful; at the worst, it was fatally dangerous to the thrower.

What does the simile about binding a stone in a sling mean? At the least, honoring a fool is counterproductive and wasteful; at the worst, it is very dangerous, for the misplaced honor can come back to severely hurt you. If you honor a fool, you are going to suffer for it, for an honored fool is an unbearable thing (Pr 23:9; 26:4-5; 29:9; 30:21-23; Matt 7:6).

Solomon’s proverbs are rules for a wise life (Pr 1:1-6), and here are twelve rules about fools (Pr 26:1-12), to help you walk wisely (Col 4:5). Natural men are fools; God wants you to be wise. Therefore, you can read a constant conflict between wisdom and folly, wise men and fools, in Solomon’s proverbs. A simple rule of wisdom is to honor wise men and choose them for your friends. The contrasting rule is to despise and reject fools.

Discrimination is good and holy. Wise men discriminate between good and evil, between wisdom and folly, and between wise men and fools. God discriminates in the distribution of many blessings and curses according to the character and conduct of men. While He sends sun and rain on both good and bad, He also rewards and punishes men (Ps 58:11).

To treat all men equally, irrespective of character and conduct, is to promote fools in their folly, and to discourage wise men for their wisdom, which truly deserve the honor. Mere existence or a natural relationship is no reason for honor, unless the person is in a God-ordained office deserving honor. Unconditional honor is ignorantly dangerous. There is no place or reason for delighting in fools (Pr 19:10). All honor should promote wisdom.

A character trait of the citizens of Zion, the true children of God, is to condemn and despise fools and to honor and promote wise men. When David listed the marks of the sons of God, he included, “In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD” (Ps 15:4). And he practiced it in his own home (Ps 101:3-8).

Elisha, as a prophet of God, when meeting King Jehoram (Ahab and Jezebel’s son) and King Jehoshaphat, said, “As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee” (II Kgs 3:14). He would not honor the foolish son of Ahab.

Parent, do you make a difference between wise and foolish children, and their wise and foolish acts? The difference you make should be consistent and obvious, for the reward of wisdom and punishment of folly. This will build a noble family by God’s method. Can you find a reason to honor a wise child today to the neglect of a foolish child? Do it!

Pastor, do you make a difference between wise and foolish members, and their wise and foolish acts? The difference you make should be consistent and obvious, for the reward of wisdom and punishment of folly. This will build a noble church by God’s method. Can you find a reason to honor wise members today to the neglect of foolish members? Do it!

Neither parents nor pastors should be guilty of the evil that frustrated Solomon. He wrote, “There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler: Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth” (Eccl 10:5-7). Put folly down, and set wisdom in great dignity, by honoring the wise person and contemning the fool.

By avoiding, neglecting, reproving, and rejecting fools, the righteous can be salt in the earth to preserve the wise and corrode the foolish (Matt 5:13; Col 4:6). By the same treatment, they will be the children of light to expose and reprove fools (Eph 5:8-13). It is the blessed privilege of saints to follow this and similar rules for treating fools.

The blessed Lord was the perfect example of applying this proverb. He condemned and rebuked foolishness, wherever He found it, even among His own disciples (Matt 22:34-46; 23:17-19; Luke 24:25-26). But He exalted wisdom as high as He could, even calling His obedient followers His mother, brothers, and sisters (Matt 12:46-50; Luke 11:27-28).