Summary: How to make your testimony stink.
FLIES IN THE OINTMENT
"Dead flies make the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour." Ecclessiates 10:1
Ointment was a necessary luxury in Bible times. The anointing of the hair, face, and exposed skin was an important act of hygiene and grooming in the arid regions of the Holy Land. (II Sam. 12:20)
The ointment was made by an apothecary (chemist/perfumer). He usually created the lotion by skillfully mixing precious spices and scents into an olive oil base.
The luscious odor from an open container of the ointment’s spices and olive oil naturally attracted pesky flies. The unwitting flies became entrapped in the miry substance. They corrupted the ointment by their presence--causing the ointment to spoil and stink.
There are many practical lessons for us in this passage. The apothecary is the Lord. The olive oil is the Holy Spirit. The spice is the Christian’s life. And, the sweet smelling savour (aroma) is the testimony produced by the Holy Spirit’s work in and through the Christian’s life (Philippians 4:18). Finally, the flies are the sins in the believer’s life that spoil his testimony for the Lord. Notice the flies listed in Ecclesiastes chapter ten that preachers must avoid:
1. Uncontrolled emotions. Verse two states, "A wise man’s heart is at his right hand, but a fool’s heart is at his left."
The heart speaks of the center of emotion. The right hand speaks of power or control. Obviously, the lesson is that a person who cannot control his or her emotions (love, hate, anger, fear, joy, sadness, etc...) has a poor testimony.
2. Hypocrisy. Verse three says, "Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool."
People who are inconsistent in their testimony are hypocrites. The way they act is affected by the company they keep. In church they act like a Christian. On the job they act like the world. I was witnessing to a man. He told me that he worked at a certain factory. I said, "Oh, then you must know Mr. So-and-so. He’s a deacon at a (certain) church." When he heard that, he started to laugh. I asked why he was laughing. He said, "If he’s a deacon, then I’m the Pope! Man, that guy has the foulest mouth in the factory."
People, who are hypocritical in their Christian life, have a fly in the ointment. It causes their testimony to stink.
3. Contempt for authority. Verse four warns, "If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences."
The word "yielding" literally means "to heal". One can heal a situation by submitting or yielding to authority.
Christians, who do not properly respect Divinely appointed authorities: government officials and law officers, spiritual leaders, or parents, are bad testimonies for the Lord. We are to conscientiously obey the higher powers. (Romans 13:1-5) We are to obey spiritual leaders. (Hebrews 13:17) Finally, we are to obey and honor our parents. (Col. 3:20, Ex. 20:12) Above all, we are to obey God.
4. A bitter spirit. Verse eight teaches, "He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh a hedge, a serpent shall bite him."
There’s nothing wrong with digging a pit or removing brush; except, when your purpose is to harm someone else. That is implicit in this verse and the one that follows. Digging a pit for someone to fall into will result in harm to yourself. (Gal. 6:7) Verse nine talks about removing boundary stones and timber from another’s property. Again, you will reap what you sow. Although only the actions are spoken of in these verses, the motive behind such diabolical activity is clear- it is a bitter and jealous spirit. Consider the example of King Ahab and Naboth. (I Kings 21)
Some preachers are the most jealous people I know. Remember that covetousness is idolatry.
How many of us, instead of loving our neighbor, hold a grudge, and plot retaliation against our neighbor for having built a wall or having planted a tree one inch too close to the property line?
Have you ever witnessed to him or her? How can you witness when your testimony is so rotten? It stinks.
5. Lack of spirituality. Verse ten declares, "If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct."
You must be sharp spiritually. We are commanded to grow in the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. (II Peter 3:18) Preacher, are you growing in the Lord? Do you whet the edge of your spiritual life? Do you read His Word, pray, witness, fellowship, and serve Him? If not, then you are dull. A dull testimony is one that cannot be a sweet smelling savour in the nostrils of God or man.