1 A few dead flies will make even the best perfume stink. In the same way, a little foolishness can ruin much wisdom and honor.
2 The thoughts of the wise lead them the right way, but the thoughts of the foolish lead them the wrong way. 3 Fools show how foolish they are, just walking down the road. Their minds are empty, and everyone knows it.
Don’t quit your job simply because the boss is angry with you. If you remain calm and helpful, you can correct even great mistakes.*
Here is something else that I have seen in this life†
that isn’t fair. It is the kind of mistake that rulers make. 6
Fools are given important positions, while the rich get jobs that are not important. 7
I have seen servants riding on horses, while rulers were walking beside them like slaves.
Every Job Has Its Dangers
8 If you dig a hole, you might fall into it. If you break down a wall, you might be bitten by a snake. 9 If you are moving large stones, you might be hurt by them. If you cut down a tree, you are in danger of it falling on you.
10 But wisdom will make any job easier. It is very hard to cut with a dull knife. But if you sharpen the knife, the job is easier.
11 Someone might know how to control snakes. But that skill is useless if a snake bites when that person is not around.
12 Words from the wise bring praise,
but words from a fool bring destruction.
13 Fools begin by saying something foolish. But in the end, they speak nonsense. 14 Fools are always talking about what they will do, but you never know what will happen. People cannot tell what will happen in the future.
15 Fools aren’t smart enough to find their way home,
so they must work hard all their lives.
The Value of Work
It is very bad for a country if the king is like a child. And it is very bad for a country if its rulers use all their time eating. 17
But it is very good for a country if the king comes from a good family.‡
And it is very good for a country if the rulers control their eating and drinking. They eat and drink to become strong, not to become drunk.
18 If someone is too lazy to work,
their house will begin to leak, and the roof will fall in.
19 People enjoy eating, and wine makes life happier. But money solves a lot of problems.
20 Don’t say bad things about the king. Don’t even think bad things about him. And don’t say bad things about rich people, even if you are alone in your home. A little bird might fly and tell them everything you said.