A dead fly in the perfume
(From the Greencastle-Antrim Ministerium)
“As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.” So says Solomon the wise man in his dismal observations known as Ecclesiastes (10:1). Quite a word picture! A bottle of expensive perfume. Pop the top, and there are several dead flies floating on the surface. Now, splash some perfume on your pretty face. Sure! Can’t wait!
The barbed point of his observation hinges on the word “little.” A dead fly or two seem so minuscule compared to all the flowers and fragrances which make the perfume potent. All the formulations, the drying, the distilling, the tweaking, the mixing. All the labor and money, the sunshine and love which went into that bottle of perfume! Yet a tiny fly which found its way into the process can ruin it. It should not be so. But it is. All the goodness and sweetness of those ingredients should not be overwhelmed by a dead insect. But it is. Nobody wants that bottle of perfume. All its good far outweighs its bad. But no one wants it. Perfume with a fly in it? Forget it!
Quite a parable for life, for work, for marriage, for money, for relationships, etc. We can work hard and do many things well. But then a single outburst, a stupid choice, a careless moment, or an irresponsible action can ruin a lot of good. A single mistake can get us fired. A single sin can destroy our marriage. A wrong word can end a friendship of many years. A foolish gamble can ruin our credit or our reputation. It should not be so. But it is.
People should be able to see that little fly in perspective with the overwhelming sweetness of all that perfume in the bottle. They should be able to say, “This is an aberration. This is a tiny blemish and it doesn’t outweigh the good.” But often they do not. They smell the fragrance but they see the fly. And they say, “Sorry. I’m grossed out. I don’t want the perfume.”
What can we do … live our life in terror of making a bad choice? Should we be afraid to do good because one day it may all be erased by a small mistake we make? No. But the point of the picture is the need to be careful … to realize that a little folly can destroy a lot of work. A moment of apathy. A moment of self-indulgence. A moment of carelessness. Somehow that fly got in the perfume! So be careful. And prayerful. No fly is worth the waste of the love and labor that was poured into that sweet perfume.