A whip for a horse, a halter for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools! Proverbs 26, verse 3.
So I’m reading this verse to be another contrasting verse, pitting the lot of farm animals against the lot of animalistic fools. Do you think the horse gets tired of being whipped? Horses are smart animals. They express feelings and emotions. If a farmer or a jockey whips a horse to get it to do something, the horse does it. The animal has been domesticated and trained to perform an action in response to a stimulus. So, again I ask the question: do you think the horse gets tired of being whipped? Would you? I think the answer is obvious.
And do you think the donkey likes the halter? Animal halters come in one of two styles: the kind that rest over the animal’s snout or the kind that rest in the animal’s mouth. The ones in the snout restrict the animal from opening its mouth and doing some things, and their heads are turned when you pull the attached reins. Mouth halters have a bit that ‘comfortably’ rests in an indentation in the animal’s jaw. It restricts the animal from eating, drinking and so forth, and is very effective at turning the animal one way or another. Humans don’t have jaw indentations but I’m betting that, comfortable or not, I would not like having someone put something in my mouth to control me. So, here’s the question one more time: do you think the donkey likes the halter? Again, I’m thinking it’s another obvious answer.
Control: it seems to be all about control, and isn’t that the reason for the whip, the halter, and a rod for the backs of fools? Even though I’ve been quite a fool, I haven’t (literally) felt someone hit me with a rod or switch. But I have suffered the discipline of harsh words, arguments, scorning, shunning, hatred, loss, grief, job loss, lost relationships, marital dissolution, threats, anger, shame, humiliation, abuse, and a hundred other negative connotations. It’s what happens when you act like an SOB…or a fool. I said it a few days ago that it isn’t our faith in God that condemns us: it’s our sins. What we do in life, some of what I’ve done in life, usually determines whether or not those negative actions come my way.
Sure, every now and then we come up against someone bigger, cannier, or meaner than ourselves, and yes now & then, random things happen that negatively affect us. Things we can’t control happen and we’re affected by them. That’s not what I’m talking about. Generally speaking, when things happen to us, it is because they are consequences of other things occurring.
By and large, that’s the way it is. It isn’t a matter of us getting what we deserve: it’s a matter of us bearing the consequences of actions. To avoid the pain, whether we like it or not, the best course of action is to learn. Learn to avoid the whip and don’t do the bad things. Learn to turn when you should turn instead of being an ass and bucking the system. Learn to be better than our sinful nature would have us be. Maybe John Wayne summed it up best: “life is hard. Life is harder when you’re stupid.”
Don’t be stupid. It’s time to put off the ways of the fool and let God retool.
It stinks to be a farm animal, doesn’t it? I mean, if you’re a horse you get beaten, if you’re a donkey you get worked, and if you’re a cow, chicken, pig, lamb, you’re destined for a dinner plate. The commentary at biblegateway.com said, “Every creature must be dealt with according to its nature, but careless and profligate sinners never will be ruled by reason and persuasion. Man indeed is born like the wild ass’s colt; but some, by the grace of God, are changed.” Me, I’ve had enough of feeling like a whipped horse or a controlled donkey. And I’ve definitely had enough of being a fool. It’s time to keep doing better. More to the point, it’s time to let God keep making us better. There’s no contrast in that.