At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.Proverbs 10:26
There are some valuable lessons that we can take away from this proverb. The first is that laziness in servants is a royal nuisance, which is the lesson we probably already knew. If you have had the misfortunate to have employed a sluggard, the on-going aggravation will be like smoke in the eyes, like vinegar to the teeth—both really unpleasant.
The second thing is something that is obvious when you think about it, but we sometimes don’t think about it. That is the fact that laziness is a public affair. When an employee is sent to do something, to discharge a task, the nuisance that results if that employee is a foot-dragger is a very public nuisance. Private laziness has public consequences. The thing that needed to get done didn’t get done, and everybody knows who was sent to do it. And realities that God has determined (through the nature of things) should be public should be . . . well, public. There is no reason to accentuate this kind of thing, but there is no reason to hide it either.
And this is related to the third thing. Sometimes we cover for the laziness of our employees out of a pretended solicitude for the feelings of those employees—like Joseph resolving to divorce Mary quietly. We think we are being godly and considerate, like Joseph was being. But perhaps something else is going on.
The reason this proverb is in Scripture is so that we might learn wisdom from it, and learning wisdom from this proverb means that we learn not to send fools on a wise man’s errand. The lesson of the proverb is not so that we might develop a taste for vinegar, or learn the next stage in smoke endurance. The lesson is for us to stop engaging the services of lazy fools. We need to stop suffering fools gladly.
But if we didn’t cover or mitigate the consequences of this, then not only would everybody see what the lazy servant keeps doing, they would also see what we keep doing when we entrust them with yet another task to make a hash out of. We sometimes think we are covering the sins of others when we are actually refusing to deal with our own.