I do my best to avoid what is on mainstream news media (MSM), I really do. Now, I fight against it because I work in an office that has FoxNews playing all day, so this takes a great effort. In fact, despite listening to sermons and discernment ministries in earbuds, I still pick up news stories in the natural pauses and when someone in the office reacts to a news story. Our church has been going through the Proverbs this summer, so today I want to take some time to remind by brothers and sisters in Christ what the Bible has to say about the fool. Our secular society has muted the understanding of “fool” to be something silly but otherwise harmless. We tend to resort to stronger language to emphasize the type of foolishness that is to be avoided.
Instruction, Knowledge, Wisdom
In my mind, it is often helpful to define terms by understanding their polar opposite. To get a picture of what a Fool is, in the Bible, we should look at its polar opposite, Wisdom.
Proverbs 1:1-7 (ESV) | The Beginning of Knowledge
1 The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3 to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6 to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 2:1-15 (ESV) | The Value of Wisdom
2 My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8 guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 discretion will watch over you,
understanding will guard you,
12 delivering you from the way of evil,
from men of perverted speech,
13 who forsake the paths of uprightness
to walk in the ways of darkness,
14 who rejoice in doing evil
and delight in the perverseness of evil,
15 men whose paths are crooked,
and who are devious in their ways.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. What does that mean? It means that the path to true wisdom, knowledge, and instruction begins with a fear of the Lord, acknowledgement of our Creator, serving Him as God. There is no knowledge or wisdom to be gained from the one who has rejected God, who has no fear of Him.
Sure, the unbelieving world has what it claims to be knowledge, even wisdom, but it is all folly and leads to their destruction.
Psalm 53 (ESV) | There Is None Who Does Good
To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David.
1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity;
there is none who does good.
2 God looks down from heaven
on the children of man
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
3 They have all fallen away;
together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.
4 Have those who work evil no knowledge,
who eat up my people as they eat bread,
and do not call upon God?
5 There they are, in great terror,
where there is no terror!
For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you;
you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.
6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
At the time this Psalm was written, Israel was waiting in anticipation for the Messiah to come. As we read it today, we are waiting in anticipation for His return. The unbelieving world remains the same… a world that has foolishly denied God and does not search for Him.
Romans 1:18-23 (ESV) | God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Paul wasn’t treating the unrighteousness of the world lightly or being kind in his word-choice of calling them fools. This is a serious charge. Jesus didn’t consider the charge of a fool lightly either.
Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV) | Anger
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
When we covered this passage in our Gospel Wednesday segment, we focused on the inescapable application of the Law such that we are all guilty of murderous sin even if we’ve not physically committed murder. But this time, I want to point out that Jesus isn’t making any light charge against a person equal to that of murder. “You Fool!” is a serious charge against someone, one that suggests a complete rejection of the knowledge of God. Let’s look at some more of what the Proverbs has to say about the fool.
Proverbs 15 (ESV)
15 A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
3 The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
keeping watch on the evil and the good.
4 A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
5 A fool despises his father’s instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.
6 In the house of the righteous there is much treasure,
but trouble befalls the income of the wicked.
7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
not so the hearts of fools.
8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.
9 The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
but he loves him who pursues righteousness.
10 There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way;
whoever hates reproof will die.
11 Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord;
how much more the hearts of the children of man!
12 A scoffer does not like to be reproved;
he will not go to the wise.
13 A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
15 All the days of the afflicted are evil,
but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.
16 Better is a little with the fear of the Lord
than great treasure and trouble with it.
17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is
than a fattened ox and hatred with it.
18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
19 The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns,
but the path of the upright is a level highway.
20 A wise son makes a glad father,
but a foolish man despises his mother.
21 Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense,
but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.
22 Without counsel plans fail,
but with many advisers they succeed.
23 To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
and a word in season, how good it is!
24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent,
that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.
25 The Lord tears down the house of the proud
but maintains the widow’s boundaries.
26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
but gracious words are pure.
27 Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household,
but he who hates bribes will live.
28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
29 The Lord is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
30 The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
and good news refreshes the bones.
31 The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
will dwell among the wise.
32 Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
33 The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.
Proverbs 29:9-11 (ESV)
9 If a wise man has an argument with a fool,
the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.
10 Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless
and seek the life of the upright.
11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
but a wise man quietly holds it back.
I highlighted the phrase in v28 because of how closely that line matches v2. Folly and wickedness are often held in close company throughout the Proverbs. They are not always interchangeable, as they have distinct definitions, but notice that their paths intertwine. The way of a fool is not to be followed. Destruction and death are in his wake. He is in the company of the wicked, the slothful, and the scoffer who reject God and His reproof.
With the definition of the fool in mind, Solomon later uses the fool as a measure of warning for specific problems of men.
Proverbs 29:20 (ESV) 20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Proverbs 26:6-12 (ESV)
6 Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool
cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.
7 Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless,
is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
8 Like one who binds the stone in the sling
is one who gives honor to a fool.
9 Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard
is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
10 Like an archer who wounds everyone
is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.
11 Like a dog that returns to his vomit
is a fool who repeats his folly.
12 Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Wow, what a way to close out that train of thought. A man who is wise in his own eyes… one who deems himself fit to declare what is true or false, what is or isn’t,… there is more hope for a fool than that man.
Christ is the Wisdom and Power of God
Fear the Lord your God, and avoid the path of the fool. Proclaim the knowledge of God, preach Law and Gospel. Have no fear of men or what they call knowledge or wisdom. From time to time, for the sake of communication, we have to accept that the world has its own measure of wisdom and knowledge, though it is a false measure due to their rejection of God. I think the Apostle Paul does so quite well in his letter to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 1:17-31 (ESV) | Christ the Wisdom and Power of God
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God,righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Romans 11:33-36 (ESV)
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,