Proverbs 26:9 Like a thorn which falls into the hand of a drunkard, so is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
As the Preacher says, “There is an appointed time for everything….A time to weep and a time to laugh…” (Ecc. 3:1a, 4a). If we take the time to weep, which is important, we should also take the time to laugh because it too is important. The God Who pours out justice, soothes the sorrows, is the same God Who mandates festivities. While ‘tis better to visit a house of mourning rather than a house of feasting (Ecc. 7:2), one need not do so every day. In fact, I daresay that God Himself has a sense of humor, albeit a dry a subtle one. But a sense of humor nonetheless!
Have you ever noticed the subtle yet sharp wit of the Bible? For those who pay attention carefully, it should bring serious contemplation as well as a hearty chuckle if not a boisterous laugh. Such seems to be the case with this verse from Proverbs when we reflect on it. Drunkards really have not changed much over the millennia. The release of their inhibitions can either make them the most pleasant person in the room, or the most obnoxious. But the idea here pertains to loss of balance. Consider how else a thorn might “fall” into a drunkard’s hand? As they go out for their nightly strolls, drunkards are not renown for their ability to toe a straight line. Indeed, they generally lack equipoise. This drunkard apparently fell near some brush, and as he staggered to regain himself, thrust his hand into some thorns.
Now, with that picture in mind, move along to the second part of verse 9. The fool proverbially stumbles over wise aphorisms. How the fool “stuck” the proverb in his head remains a mystery, but the idea is that it occurred accidentally. The fool recites a proverb, but has no idea what it means, and watching him attempt to remove the “thorn” from his “hand” is a little comical. Have you ever conversed with somebody who spoke “wisdom,” but could tell they had no idea what they were saying? It brings to mind Inigo Montoya’s famous line to Vizzini from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.”
In some ways too, we Christians are like that fool—we quote, recite (or paraphrase) verses or statements when we do not truly understand what we are saying. In ancient Rome, part of a Roman’s education was to memorize great poetry from Homer or Virgil; and the Romans would then recite these verses to each other at dinner parties, not for edifying purposes, but pedantic ones—to display what they “knew.” We Christians should reflect carefully on what we “know,” and not be hesitant to laugh at ourselves, for it is also important for us to not take ourselves too seriously—the Preacher warns about that too! (Ecc. 7:16). While it does not directly appertain to Baptists, H.L. Mencken’s notorious definition of Puritans is still instructive: “A Puritan is someone who is deathly afraid that someone, somewhere is having fun.” Mencken was no friend to Christianity, but his caustic wit possesses a sting of (some) truth.
The Christian life mandates balance, and moderation in all things. As Christians, we should laugh merrily. A fellow Christian once told me on a little known truth contained in the Bible—that Paul was, in fact, married. I was rather astonished and dumbfounded, and gullibly inquired further as to what passage of Scripture speaks of his marriage. With a smirk and feigned surprise, he replied, “Certainly! Have you never heard of Paul’s thorn in the flesh?” It is important to laugh, but on a more serious note, ‘tis far more important to laugh at yourself.