Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor. (Ecclesiastes 10:1—NIV)

The New Testament enjoins all born again saints to strive for blamelessness. The great privilege of a Christian is to be daily more conformed to the image of Christ. This is theologically referred to as sanctification. The quality of being set apart to the Lord’s work and service is treasured by all who represent Christ.

It is no wonder then that three times in the New Testament there is the reminder that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Our God is a jealous God for His reputation’s sake because His essence is truth and holiness.

Our text clearly engages our senses with the design to motivate anyone who holds his testimony sacred before God as fitting him for divine usefulness. Unless you are seeking to reach a total stranger, it is virtually impossible to communicate the purity of Christ when your life is impure. Your reputation for sin and folly will jade the hearer.

The dead flies are more appropriately understood as “death flies” which communicate their poison to the fragrant ointment causing it to “boil up”, ferment and stink. That which took time to create and would have been of great value both to the maker and to the purchaser, now is useless, offensive and to all indications carries noxious, fetid vapors, bearing poisonous effect.

Solomon applies this word picture to the introduction of a “little folly” into the reputation of a person known for wisdom and honor. Such a reputation is not gained overnight. It is carefully guarded and thoughtfully crafted over the course of time. There must be successful navigation through times of testing. There must be observers who have taken note of enduring quality in the life of the one of repute. Of course, wise and honorable living has led to a perception of him as being worthy of respect on the part of others.

The effect of a little folly upon the reputation, according to Solomon, is a fermenting slough of diminished reputation and effectiveness. The closer one is to the ointment, the more repulsive the fumes most assuredly. It would follow then that the ones you care about will be the most effected by your little folly and therefore pay the highest price.

Though you live in the “take me as I am” culture which says, “Trust me, I intended no wrong”, there will always be this pesky little thing called reputation which will precede you throughout your life. Guard your reputation for the Lord’s sake and for His glory!