How often has the following scenario been played out on the pages of human history: A young man grows up in church, lives a clean life, has a good reputation, and when he turns 18 years old he runs off one night to the wrong place, with the wrong friends, and finds himself in a wrong situation in which one foolish decision leads to a lifetime of regret.
Somebody once said that “a small leak will sink a great ship.” I think the Bible says it better. Ecclesiastes 10:1 says, “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.” Just as a small leak can sink a great ship, so can a little folly sink a good reputation.
In ancient times, an apothecary was a dealer of spices and perfumes. An apothecary understood the importance of keeping his spices and perfumed ointments covered at all times, otherwise, they would quickly be covered in flies. Just as we keep flies off our food today, so the apothecary tried his best to keep flies out of his ointment so as to keep it from being spoiled. Ecclesiastes 10:1 describes how a little, insignificant fly can spoil an ointment by causing a great stench.
The application is so relevant to you and I. Just as a little fly in ointment causes a great stench, so a little folly in the life of one with a good reputation causes it to be destroyed. A testimony can take a lifetime to build. But it takes one moment of fleshly gratification to spoil it. One’s life, one’s testimony, one’s reputation can be spoiled through one act of fleshly indulgence.
The Bible commands us to be “sober…vigilant” because we have an adversary who is seeking to destroy one’s effectiveness and testimony to shine as a light for Christ. The Bible says “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” A little compromise, a little inconsistency, a little sin, a little idleness, a little folly can lead to a great “spiritual shipwreck.”
We all come to crossroads in our life where there is a path to give into sin or a path to do what is right. Down one path lies momentary pleasure for a short time, but ruin that follows. Down the other path lies self-denial, mortification of the flesh, abstaining from sin and all appearance of evil, but everlasting joy to follow.
A little folly can cause a great stink in one’s life. It can cause a man with a reputation for wisdom and honor to live the rest of his days with regret. Thankfully, there is forgiveness in Christ for any sin that we commit. But there is no taking back a lost reputation among men. We must be wise and upright in every decision we make. We must not allow any form of folly or sin into our lives.