Posted by: Pastor Terry Hagedorn | June 22, 2009


(C) 1997

“Dead flies make the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour.” Ecclessiates 10:1

Ointment was a necessary luxury in Bible times. The anointing of the hair, face, and exposed skin was an important act of hygiene and grooming in the arid regions of the Holy Land. (II Sam. 12:20)

The ointment was made by an apothecary (chemist/perfumer). He usually created the lotion by skillfully mixing precious spices and scents into an olive oil base.

The luscious odor from an open container of the ointment’s spices and olive oil naturally attracted pesky flies. The unwitting flies became entrapped in the miry substance. Not only did they corrupt the ointment by their presence, but their decaying bodies caused the ointment to spoil and stink.

This is a parable. The apothecary is the Lord. The olive oil is the Holy Spirit. The spice is the Christian’s life. And, the sweet smelling savour (aroma) is the testimony produced by the Holy Spirit’s work in and through the Christian’s life (Phil. :18). Finally, the flies are the sins in the believer’s life that spoil his testimony for the Lord. Notice the flieslisted in Ecclesiastes chapter ten that preachers must avoid:

1. Uncontrolled emotions. Verse two states, “A wise man’s heart is at his right hand, but a fool’s heart is at his left.”

The heart speaks of the center of emotion. The right hand speaks of power or control. Obviously, the lesson is that a person who cannot control his or her emotions (love, hate, anger, fear, joy, sadness, etc…) has a poor testimony. This is a rotten fly in many preacher’s ointment, isn’t it? Many preachers ruin their ministries with this rotten fly in the ointment.

2. Hypocrisy. Verse three says, “Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.”

People who are inconsistent in their testimony are hypocrites. The way they act is affected by the company they keep. In church they act like a Christian. On the job they act like the world. I was witnessing to a man. He told me that he worked at a certain factory. I said, “Oh, then you must know Mr. So-and-so. He’s a deacon at a (certain) church.” When he heard that, he started to laugh. I asked why he was laughing. He said, “If he’s a deacon, then I’m the Pope! Man, that guy has the foulest mouth in the factory.”

People, who are hypocritical in their Christian life, have a fly in the ointment. It causes their testimony to stink.

3. Contempt for authority. Verse four warns, “If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.”

The word “yielding” literally means “to heal”. One can heal a situation by submitting or yielding to authority. Too many preachers get a “big head”. They become an authority unto themselves. Friend, listen to the word of experience: Come down off of that high horse before God knocks you down.

Christians, who do not properly respect Divinely appointed authorities: government officials and law officers, spiritual leaders, or parents, are bad testimonies for the Lord. We are to conscientiously obey the higher powers. (Romans 13:1-5) We are to obey spiritual leaders. (Hebrews 13:17) Finally, we are to obey and honor our parents. (Col. 3:20, Ex. 20:12) Above all, we are to obey God.

4. A bitter spirit. Verse eight teaches, “He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh a hedge, a serpent shall bite him.”

There’s nothing wrong with digging a pit or removing brush; except, when your purpose is to harm someone else. That is implicit in this verse and the one that follows. Digging a pit for someone to fall into will result in harm to yourself. (Gal. 6:7) Verse nine talks about removing boundary stones and timber from another’s property. Again, you will reap what you sow. Although only the actions are spoken of in these verses, the motive behind such diabolical activity is clear- it is a bitter and jealous spirit. Consider the example of King Ahab and Naboth. (I Kings 21)

Some preachers are the most jealous people I know. Remember that covetousness is idolatry.

How many of us, instead of loving our neighbor, hold a grudge, and plot retaliation against our neighbor for having built a wall or having planted a tree one inch too close to the property line?

Have you ever witnessed to him or her? How can you witness when your testimony is so rotten? It stinks.

5. Lack of spirituality. Verse ten declares, “If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.”

You must be sharp spiritually. We are commanded to grow in the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. (II Peter 3:18) Preacher, are you growing in the Lord? Do you whet the edge of your spiritual life? Do you read His Word, pray, witness, fellowship, and serve Him? If not, then you are dull. A dull testimony is one that cannot be a sweet smelling savour in the nostrils of God or man.

6. Evil speaking. Verse eleven says, “Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.”

This is a large fly in the ointment. There are more sins associated with speech than any other sin listed in the Bible: lying, blasphemy, boasting, gossip, back biting, cursing, etc… James, the brother of the Lord, states, “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man…” “perfect” means mature, of full moral and spiritual growth. A liar is at least carnal- maybe NOT even saved at all! A habitual liar has never been saved! (I John 3:9, Rev. 21:8)

How many Christians have spiritual halitosis? I’ve already mentioned a deacon whose testimony stunk because of lying. Have you ever been lied to by a Christian? Have you ever heard a brother or sister curse? How did it affect your opinion of him or her? If it adversely affects us, then what do you think it does to the lost? Read Eccles. 10:12-1 , and 20.

7. Slothfulness. Finally, verse eighteen tells us, “By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of hands the house droppeth through.”

Laziness is a sin that ruins many preachers. King David is a tragic example of how a “man after God’s own heart” can ruin his testimony. (II Samuel 11) David tarried in Jerusalem instead of going to battle. “It came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off of his bed (It’s evening and he’s still in bed!), and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: …and saw a woman washing herself”, and the rest is a tragic story illustrating the adage- an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop.

My father used to say, “Doc (his nickname for me- he thought that I, as an infant, bore a striking resemblance to one of the Seven Dwarves) you’re so lazy that you stink.” Well, Dad was right about two things: that I did bear a resemblance to Doc and that lazy people stink. Slothfulness will make your testimony stink!

Does your testimony send forth a sweetsmelling savour? Does it really? Maybe, you just think so!

Have you ever had a friend offer you a breath mint- at arm’s length? You were embarrassed. You had not even realized that your breath smelled. Right?

If God tells you that you have an odor- don’t be offended! Hey, what are friends for? Rather, thank the Lord for being a friend who will tell you the truth.

The best way to keep a sweetsmelling testimony is to keep the rotten flies out of your ointment. You can’t keep flies from flying over the ointment; however you can keep them from landing in the bowl. Keep it covered. If one gets in, then remove it immediately before it corrupts your testimony.


Avoid flies- avoid temptation (I Tim.6:11). Remove the flies- if you sin, then repent and confess it immediately. (I John 1:9) Screen yourself from flies- keep your testimony covered. (I John 1:7) Finally, use spiritual Fly Spray insect repellent- saturate yourself with the Word, “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119:11)

If you do these things, then your life will be “a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour”- well pleasing to the Lord. (Eph. 5:2)



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