One of the more graphic proverbs in the Bible is found in Proverbs 22:6. It reads: “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.”
The image is, well, kinda gross. Nobody really enjoys looking at vomit. I thought about putting a picture of vomit at the top of this post, but decided against it because it’s vomit. It’s puke. It’s food and green stuff and grossness.
I remember when I was in school and people would throw up in class. It was gross, but everybody would watch. Everybody would look at it. And then everybody would talk about it afterwards. There was a fascination with it.
It reminds me of the episode of The Office when an unknown person leaves a gross “package” in Michael Scott’s office. It’s nasty, it’s smelly. The carpet has to come be removed because of the smell and the stain left over. But even though it’s gross and unsettling, the people in the office can’t stop talking about it.
I’ve been thinking about that phrase from that Proverbs verse earlier — “like a dog that returns to his vomit” — and applying that to my own life.
Here’s the thing: vomit is a reminder of something bad. It’s something that we ingested or something happening in our body that is so repulsive the body has to forcefully spit it out. Most of us find this action horrendous and unsettling, so we quickly dispose of it.
Dogs don’t do that — they eat their vomit. Some quick research I did shows that dogs do that because their increased smelling capacities lead them to find and eat the food that’s in the vomit.
That might have some nutritional value for dogs, but it doesn’t for us. But we often do the same thing with our sin.
We often return to the same sins over and over again, even after we’ve felt the negative effects of them. We choose to ignore those negative effects and maybe even terrible guilt we felt after sinning, and just come right back. We’re just like the Israelites in the Old Testament, the classic example of this, who sinned, returned to God, then returned back to the same sins they committed before.
I find this to be a common thread in my own life. For whatever reason, I’ll return to the things that are not helpful, not beneficial, not life-giving, and do them.
What’s the solution to this? How do I, and how do we, overcome the sickness of returning to our vomit, returning to the mistakes we’ve made many times over?
Like this: We recognize the vomit for what it is. We don’t see it as having some small value, but as being totally abhorrent and unhelpful for us.
I think one of the gravest mistakes a Christian can make it not accepting how appetizing sin is. We sin because we like it. Sin isn’t something we do in spite of ourselves, at least most of the time. Sin is something we’re attracted to. It’s something that has some sort of benefit to us.
But we have to recognize the short-lived, non-permanent nature of that benefit. That’s the beginning of getting away from that vomit and eating what’s good for us — obedience, doing what’s right, trusting the Lord.