18 Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow is one who gives false testimony against a neighbor.
19 Like a broken tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in a time of trouble.
20 Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings imprudent songs to a heavy heart.
These three verses make up one complete proverb giving examples of what is immoral, ill-considered, and thoughtless. The first two, while true on their own, lead up to the central point of the aphorism in the third verse.
So let us take a look at verse twenty. We know that taking away a garment on a cold day, either off oneself or another person, is to be exposed to obvious ill effects of cold weather. What do we know about pouring vinegar on a wound? Sounded painful and possibly dangerous, so I looked it up online. The first thing I discovered is that it is a form of acetic acid. Yikes, sounds really painful and dangerous. Turns out it is for if you wish to treat a wound with vinegar (apple cider vinegar) it should be diluted with two tablespoons to two cups of water to soak a gauze wrapping for a wound. The direct application of vinegar without dilution can cause great pain and scarring.
Thus the first two examples in verse twenty are examples of taking a situation and making it worse, even possibly making things permanently worse – scarring by the direct application of vinegar on a wound. It is also known vinegar can damage the teeth as noted in Proverbs 10:26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, …
So now what about one who sings imprudent songs to a heavy heart. Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us there a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Romans 12:15 makes this point as well when it says Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn offering real sympathy as our duty. Singing joyful or happy [imprudent] songs to one in mourning “does not relieve, but increase a man’s grief, and makes his heart far more heavy and sorrowful than it was before” (Benson Commentary).
Bottom line: respect the condition of a person’s heart when they are grieving or in mourning. Let them have their time of dealing with their heavy heart. Offer kindness, your own heartfelt condolences, and real sympathy. It has been my experience often times simply sitting quietly with a person saying little or nothing is the best form of compassion.
It’s Monday! Have a Great Week and remember we celebrate Resurrection Sunday, also known by many as Easter, next Sunday.