Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 26:8
"Like one who binds a stone in a sling, so is he who gives honor to a fool"
This has been a somewhat cryptic proverb for years because of how the Hebrew was translated. In the KJV it was translated like one who throws a stone on a stone heap, so is one who gives honor to a fool.
The NASB has uncovered what is most likely the correct translation of the text.
binds a stone in a sling
This is the Hebrew word sarar which means to bind, to tie up, to narrow, to be in distress, to restrict. This has been taken as binding or tying a rock into a sling.
Remember that a sling was one of the major weapons of the time. It was dangerous and was equal to our handgun for its ability to level the fighting field. It was a dangerous weapon, and the Israelites knew how to use it. When a sling was used, a stone was prepared that was smooth and as round as possible. This would allow the stone to fly straight and not curve off course. The two cords of the sling were allowed to dangle beneath the hand with the rock or stone in the pouch at the end of the cords. The pouch was then swung rapidly and at precisely the right moment the front string was released and the rock would fly forward with all the centrifugal force that had been generated by whipping it around your head. If the stone did not release or was somehow tied into the pouch, then when the front string was released and the swing motion of the arm was stopped the pouch would swing around and hit you in the head or body with great speed and significant damage. This is what Solomon is warning about. If you give value and honor and compliments to a self-absorbed person, you will be hurting yourself eventually. It will come back to bite you.
The other idea that is hidden in this proverb is that when a stone is bound to a sling, the only way to release the stone without damaging one's self is to let go of the whole thing. Instead of just letting go of the front string of the sling, one must let go of the whole sling. Let me explain one possible insight that I run into all the time. A person will come to me and tell me about their boss or colleague who is selfish, proud, arrogant, or some other foolish quality. The boss wants and needs the strokes, admiration, praise, compliments (honor) in the midst of their foolish behavior; but if you give it to them, then the only way to not incur significant damage is to leave the organization. There is no way to stay and not be damaged. It is only a matter of time until you need to leave or you will be damaged by the honor you have given to the fool. You must let go of the whole sling.
I have seen lots of people try and stay at the company, the church, or the charity after they have supported or promoted a fool; and it always ends badly for them. I have seen people try and become the leader of the company, but what they said and their past associations wound them. I have seen people try and just meld into the organization because they like the other people or the money or the place they live, but it all comes back to haunt them. Solomon is saying that honor given to a fool will come back around and hurt you. In other words, if one is involved with a fool who wants honor and is the leader of an organization, then it is impossible to be safe from personal damage unless you let go of the whole thing and leave the organization.
This is the word kabod which means great or glorious. It means to treat as if they are great; to add value to them as if they were glorious as a person.
This is the Hebrew word kesil which means dullard, fool, even stupid fellow. This is a person who is self-absorbed but also the person who regularly makes wrong moral choices. This person makes the consistently bad moral choice. When this kind of person is praised and given honor and awards, it lowers the standards of the whole society. It encourages degeneracy. This is, unfortunately, what our society is doing. We are giving awards and fame to the most deviant and morally obtuse people in the society as though they have invented some new thing. It comes back to hurt those who honor these people. It moves you in the direction of their deviancy.