The book of Proverbs in the Bible contains many wise sayings and advice for living a godly life. One such proverb is found in Proverbs 10:10, which states “Whoever winks the eye causes trouble, and a babbling fool will come to ruin.” This verse provides insight into how certain behaviors and attitudes can lead to trouble and destruction.
To fully understand this proverb, it is helpful to examine the meaning of “winking eye” in the ancient Hebrew culture. In Hebrew, the phrase translated as “winking eye” can also mean to blink the eyes, twinkle the eyes, or communicate with the eyes. The winking or blinking of the eyes was generally seen as a gesture of dishonesty, deception, or derision towards someone else. It often indicated having malicious intent or sharing manipulative signals with another party. Overall, the winking eye represented the act of misleading others or plotting evil schemes from behind the scenes.
In the context of Proverbs 10:10, the “winking eye” points to someone who secretly stirs up trouble through deception, subtle signals, innuendo, and other indirect methods. This troublemaker operates through sly looks, coded gestures, and other covert means rather than through direct and open speech. While they may appear innocent on the surface, their deceptive communication breeds mistrust, division, and hostility underneath. This ultimately causes greater ruin to relationships, reputation, and community.
In contrast, the proverb says that the “babbling fool” is the one who “comes to ruin.” Unlike the winking eye who creates trouble in secretive ways, the babbling fool explicitly broadcasts their foolishness through their unwise speech. Their careless words get them into direct trouble as they openly mock, slander, and spout falsehoods that erode trust. While the covert troublemaker also ends in ruin, the babbling fool’s demise is more immediate and transparent due to their blatant lack of discretion with speech.
Examining other proverbs help expand the meaning of this verse. Proverbs 6:12-14 describes a worthless person who “winks with his eye” and signals with his fingers as he plots evil and stirs up conflict within a community. Proverbs 16:30 warns that a person who winks his eyes is scheming perverse things and spreading deceit. Overall, the winking eye in Scripture points to someone who secretly spreads trouble through shady communication and plotting.
When applying Proverbs 10:10 to life today, Christians should first reflect on whether they have been winking eyes who subtly stir up trouble through deceptive communication. This may include:
- Gossiping or slandering others through sly gestures or innuendo
- Undermining leadership or relationships through backroom politicking
- Sowing seeds of mistrust through false signals and mixed messages
- Manipulating outcomes in self-interest through covert maneuvering
If someone examines their heart and sees traces of winking eye troublemaking, they should repent and pray for the Holy Spirit to purify their communication and motives. Truthfulness, transparency, and discretion are called for instead.
Secondly, Christians should avoid partnering with winking eyes who slyly spread trouble in a community. The book of Proverbs consistently warns against association with those who secretly sow strife through deceptive signaling and back-room politics (Proverbs 16:27-30). While overt troublemakers reveal themselves through rash words, covert troublemakers require more discernment to identify and resist. Believers should test questionable communications, observe patterns of behavior, and partner only with those who demonstrate integrity.
Thirdly, spreading the gospel requires open and honest communication about Jesus, not subtle maneuvering. Paul said he renounced secret and shameful ways, not acting with craftiness or adulterating the word of God (2 Corinthians 4:1-2). The gospel brings wholeness and should be shared with transparent motives, not spread through tactics of deception or manipulation.
Lastly, Christians can practice openly sharing grievances, not winking eyes. Jesus taught that addressing conflict directly with a brother first, not subtly spreading discontent, prevents greater disunity in the church (Matthew 18:15-17). The book of Proverbs consistently promotes transparent and honest communication over secrecy when it comes to spreading both the gospel and resolving interpersonal conflicts.
Two Types of Troublemakers
Proverbs 10:10 highlights two contrasting types of troublemakers:
1. The Winking Eye
- Spreads trouble covertly through deceptive communication
- Uses sly looks, subtle gestures, and coded language to stir up mistrust
- Masks true intentions through secrecy and dishonest signals
- Often charismatic and persuasive on the surface
- Lacks personal integrity and discretion
2. The Babbling Fool
- Spreads trouble overtly through rash and reckless speech
- Spouts nonsense, slander, foolishness that erodes trust
- Lacks self-control and blurts out whatever comes to mind
- Reveals shortcomings and flaws openly through speech
- Comes to ruin more quickly due to lack of discretion
While differing in communication style, both types bring pain, mistrust, and division to those around them. Neither demonstrates wisdom or the ability to tame one’s tongue.
Walking in Wisdom
For Christians seeking to live wisely, Proverbs 10:10 provides this instruction:
Avoid being a winking eye who secretly stirs up trouble through deception, sly communication, coded language, hidden motives, or behind-the-scenes maneuvering. These behaviors may appear innocent but subtly sow seeds of mistrust and conflict.
Avoid being a babbling fool who openly spouts nonsense, falsehoods, mockery, and slander that erode trust. Such reckless words directly create ruin.
Walk in honesty with transparent communication and upright actions. Do not plot harm against neighbor. Seek trustworthy friends.
Tame the tongue through self-control and Spirit-led discretion. Avoid flattery, deception, gossip, and slander.
Spread the gospel with openness, not covert maneuvering. Rely on truth to transform hearts.
Proverbs consistently connects wisdom with honest, thoughtful communication that builds trust and harmony. As James 3:13-18 summarizes, wisdom from heaven bears good fruit in peacemakers who sow righteousness through humble transparency. This provides the antidote to winking eyes and babbling fools who spread strife.
Bible Verses on Deception, Gossip, and Integrity
Here are some additional Bible verses that provide wisdom relating to issues of secretive communication, troublemaking, gossip, and integrity:
Deception and Troublemaking
Whoever winks his eyes plans dishonest things; he who purses his lips brings evil to pass. (Proverbs 16:30)
For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. (Proverbs 26:20)
A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
Gossip and Slander
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. (Proverbs 20:19)
A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:28)
Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret. (Proverbs 25:9)
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. (James 4:11)
Integrity and Honesty
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. (Proverbs 10:9)
Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right. (Proverbs 16:13)
These are the things you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace. (Zechariah 8:16)
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (Ephesians 4:25)
May we meditate on these wise principles and allow the Holy Spirit to shape our speech into life-giving truth instead of trouble-spreading deception. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21), so may we choose to speak words of wisdom, honesty, and love.
Troublemakers in the Early Church
The New Testament records several examples of both “winking eye” and “babbling fool” troublemakers who threatened the health of the early Christian church. Examining their destructive patterns can shed further light on the wisdom of Proverbs 10:10.
Winking Eyes in the Early Church
Judaizers – These false teachers secretly infiltrated the Galatian churches and sowed seeds of deceit, persuading new believers that they had to adopt Jewish circumcision and dietary laws to truly belong to Christ. Their subtle commandments troubled believers and perverted the gospel of grace (Galatians 2:1-4, Acts 15:1, 5).
False Apostles in Corinth – Manipulative leaders in Corinth stirred up factions and led believers astray through impressive speeches mixed with false teachings. Paul noted their deceptive nature, describing them as “false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).
Nicolaitans & Jezebel – Jesus rebuked the church in Pergamum for tolerating followers of the Nicolaitans, who held to wrong doctrine and led people into sexual sin. Their teachings encouraged compromise with idolatry and other dangers (Revelation 2:12-17). Jesus also criticized the church in Thyatira for allowing “that woman Jezebel” to deceptively seduce believers into idolatry and sexual immorality (Revelation 2:18-29).
These groups resembled the winking eye troublemaker through their deceptive false teachings and dangerous compromises masked under persuasive words. Their secretive corruption threatened the fledgling church.
Babbling Fools in the Early Church
Legalistic Circumcisers in Antioch – Certain men from Judea openly taught Gentile believers in Antioch that they had to be circumcised to be saved, directly contradicting the gospel of grace. Their reckless words troubled the church and required apostolic intervention (Acts 15:1, 5).
Alexandrian Troublemakers – Paul warned Timothy to look out for reckless babblers like “Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened” (2 Timothy 2:16-18). Their foolish teachings undermined core doctrine and harmed the faith of believers in Ephesus.
Scoffers – Peter warned that mockers and scoffers would arrogantly spout folly, twisting biblical truths and raging in blasphemy against Christ. Their prideful words would appeal to worldly people but bring destruction upon themselves (2 Peter 3:3-7).
Like the babbling fool of Proverbs 10:10, these visible agitators undermined the church through their reckless speech, open mockery, and overt twisting of Christian doctrine. Their blatant troublemaking required strong apostolic correction.
Examining this history shows the vital need for discernment, wise leadership, and adhering to sound doctrine over personalities. Troublemakers often mix truth with error to deceive believers. But God protects those who stay rooted in His word of truth and humbly seek unity in Christ.
Wise Responses to Troublemakers
When confronting “winking eye” or “babbling fool” troublemakers, believers should follow biblical wisdom:
Seek Discernment Through Prayer
“Brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2)
Ask God for wisdom to identify deceptive teachings or reckless communications that spread confusion and divisions.
Test Words Against Scripture
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)
Carefully evaluate all teachings against the truth of God’s word and centrality of Christ.
Reject Troublemakers & Warn Others
“As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10-11)
Openly reject divisive troublemakers after gracious warnings. Warn fellow believers of their danger.
Remain Rooted in Sound Doctrine
“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9)
Stay grounded in scriptural truths, not personalities. Correct errors with gentleness and truth.
Rather than spreading strife in response, believers must stay rooted in prayer, scriptural wisdom, and Christ-like integrity. This denies a foothold for troublemakers.
Guarding Our Own Hearts
While troubling people sometimes threaten the body of Christ, Scripture also warns each believer to guard their own heart against deception or foolishness:
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Ask God to search your heart and reveal any areas of foolishness, hypocrisy, or hidden motives that require repentance. Seek to walk in humility, integrity, and wise speech that brings life.
Monitor your own signals. Do not become a winking eye who manipulates through coded communication. Or a babbling fool who thoughtlessly spreads untruths. But demonstrate the Spirit’s wisdom through righteous and loving words.
As James wrote, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13). May our lives honor Christ, reject deception, and foster true godly wisdom in our churches.