Ecclesiastes 10:8–20 (NKJV)
8 He who digs a pit will fall into it,
And whoever breaks through a wall will be bitten by a serpent.
9 He who quarries stones may be hurt by them,
And he who splits wood may be endangered by it.
10 If the ax is dull,
And one does not sharpen the edge,
Then he must use more strength;
But wisdom brings success.
11 A serpent may bite when it is not charmed;
The babbler is no different.
12 The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious,
But the lips of a fool shall swallow him up;
13 The words of his mouth begin with foolishness,
And the end of his talk is raving madness.
14 A fool also multiplies words.
No man knows what is to be;
Who can tell him what will be after him?
15 The labor of fools wearies them,
For they do not even know how to go to the city!
16 Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
And your princes feast in the morning!
17 Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles,
And your princes feast at the proper time—
For strength and not for drunkenness!
18 Because of laziness the building decays,
And through idleness of hands the house leaks.
19 A feast is made for laughter,
And wine makes merry;
But money answers everything.
20 Do not curse the king, even in your thought;
Do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom;
For a bird of the air may carry your voice,
And a bird in flight may tell the matter.
Be careful and be prepared for dangers and weariness. The Preacher warns against carelessness on all fronts. The imagery that demonstrates this the most visibly is the dull ax. Using a dull ax makes the job longer and harder. In every area of life, sharpen your ax so that you can cut through the work at hand more easily and more efficiently! You sharpen your ax in many ways by acquiring wisdom.
Solomon also compares a foolish babbler to a snake. If he is not tamed, he may bite. The fool may harm you if he is not stopped. Fools think they know the path of events to come, but really are just uninformed weak thinkers. Don’t follow them over the cliff!
The writer then speaks of the need for leaders–in this case of a nation–to be mature, full of integrity, and wise. When your leadership is lazy, childish, or careless, your nation (church, home, company) will not succeed. Put feasting and wine away and work hard and smart.
Finally, the reader is told to keep his or her thought life pure, and to not curse the king or the rich, for it may be carried to the wrong ears and cause you trouble. Sharpen your ax!