“Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts of his own feet and drinks violence.” – Proverbs 26:6
This chapter lists many warnings about the dangers of dealing with fools. (Prov 26:1-10, 12) The violence of this one seems gratuitous. You’re only sending a message, after all. What’s the worst that could happen? Then you see the result – apparently you cut off your own feet and drink violence. Cutting off your own feet roughly equates to our English idiom of cutting off your own legs. You render your own cause impotent. But drinking violence? Where did that come from?
We often don’t have much choice in the people we deal with. God situates you in a certain neighborhood, or school, or workplace. You cannot peruse in advance the detailed profiles of all the characters who enter your circle. You do, however, have more control in how permeable your circle is to various people.
We allow some people greater ease of access to our life, or welcome them farther inside, while others we prefer to talk to over the fence. This proverb has to do with trust. Who do you trust with the things you want said or done, whether big or little? The answer may not be so easy as we would like because fools do not walk around with propeller beanie hats, and rarely with heart tattoos of ex-girlfriends.
Being a fool has little to do with intelligence or even competency in a particular field. Wisdom is the application of knowledge based on a belief in God. You may be lured into trusting someone smart or accomplished, only to discover you have employed a fool. Even with something as innocuous as delivering a message, wisdom matters. There is more than one way to tell someone you are running late, for instance, and a fool will find the wrong way.
A fool will fail to grasp social complexities or care about anyone’s feelings except her own. You will find yourself stirring up a storm of violence on account of a lack of tact. Fools eventually declare themselves as such (Ecc 10:3), after which you have no one to blame for their mischief but yourself.
But what do you do if you are surrounded by fools? First of all, if you believe that everybody around you is beneath you, you need a study in humility. Secondly, this is where Jesus comes in. Even the best of people are grimed with folly like a Tesla coated in Spring pollen. No one comes through this life clean.
You won’t always trust the right people, including yourself. You can’t micromanage everyone you must lean on. But you can always depend on Jesus. When you can’t see your way out of a hole, or you can’t find the right words to say, you can trust your hopes to Jesus. “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Prov 16:3). Jesus works through his Spirit to always carry the right message, and produce the best outcome.