“What is foolishness?” “How do I recognize fools?” The answers to these questions are important for a few reasons.
Jesus issued the command, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Mt. 7:6). The clear implication of Jesus’ statement is that there are certain people with whom it is unwise to dialogue about the things of God (if you’re wondering, we’ll consider who the “dogs” and “pigs” are later in this study).
2) Loving Other People.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, saying, “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral peopleâ€”not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindlerâ€”not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you'” (1 Cor. 5:9-13). We need to be able to recognize fools in order to do what is ultimately best for the church (1 Cor. 5:6-8) and even for the fool himself (1 Cor. 5:5).
3) Loving Yourself.
Proverbs essentially describes what it looks like to fear God and what it looks like not to fear God. As such, knowing what foolishness is and how fools may be recognized is helpful for believers, enabling them to test themselves to see if they are bearing the fruit of true wisdom.
I pray this study is beneficial for you personally, for your local church and for the body of Christ as a whole.
The Heart of the Fool/Simple:
- Fools despise wisdom, instruction and knowledge (Prov. 1:7) in general, and particularly from their parents (15:5).
- Fools assume that they know what is best (Prov. 12:15, 28:26).
- Fools do not want to understand (Prov. 17:10, 18:2), but only to voice their opinions (Prov. 18:2).
- Fools think deceitfulness is virtuous (Prov. 14:8).
- Fools care nothing about righteousness (Prov. 14:16), and, in fact, find it repulsive/abhorrent (Prov. 13:19).
- Fools do not want to be corrected (Prov. 26:9).
- Fools are very difficult (Prov. 27:22, 29:9), though not impossible (Prov. 19:25, 21:11, 30:32), to correct.
- Fools are irritated with and incessantly laugh at those who argue against them (Prov. 29:9).
- Fools generally cannot gain wisdom (Prov. 24:7, 26:2, 11).
- Fools lack sense (Prov. 8:35, 10:21).
- Fools lack direction in life (Prov. 17:24).
- Fools are complacent toward God (Prov. 1:32).
The Life of the Fool/Simple:
- Fools are quick-tempered and easily agitated (Prov. 12:16, 14:17, 27:3, 29:11).
- Fools are slanderers (Prov. 10:18).
- Fools provoke others with their speech and get themselves beaten (Prov. 18:6-7, 20:3).
- Fools waste their money (Prov. 21:20).
- Fools despise their parents (Prov. 15:20).
- Fools laugh at sin, as if dishonoring God is a joke (Prov. 10:23, 14:9).
- Fools lead their friends and family into harmâ€™s way (Prov. 13:20, 19:10).
- Fools proclaim publicly (Prov. 12:23, 15:2, 14, 16:22), and even flaunt (Prov. 13:16), their foolishness.
The Results of Folly.
- Fools’ parents are grieved (Prov. 10:1, 17:25).
- Fools are truly poor, more impoverished than the man lacking money (Prov. 19:1).
- Fools get disgrace/dishonor from God (Prov. 3:35, 26:1).
- Fools are destroyed for their refusal to love God (Prov. 1:32, 10:8, 10, 14, 21).
Is Anything Worse Than Being Foolish/Simple?
- Fools are better off than those who think they are wise (Prov. 26:12).
- Fools are better off than those who speak too quickly (Prov. 29:20, cf. 17:28).
- Fools are better off than the scoffer/mocker (Prov. 21:11).
How To Deal With Fools.
- Fools should not be employed because they are not trustworthy (Prov. 26:6) and are dangerous to other employees (26:10).
- Fools should not be given authority positions of any kind (Prov. 26:8).
- Fools should be punished for their foolishness by those in authority over them (Prov. 14:3, 19:29, 26:3).
- The proper response to fools differs according to the nature of the fool (Prov. 26:4-5). The fool who wants only to argue could rightly be called a “dog” or “pig” in accordance with Matthew 7, and one should not even respond to him (Prov. 14:7, 17:12, 23:9, 26:2 cf. Mt. 7:6, 10:14, Mk. 6:11, Lk. 9:5, 10:1, Acts 13:51). If one discerns, however, that a fool may be willing to listen or that others may benefit from a response to his foolishness, one should give correction.
I pray this helps you determine how to identify and deal with the fools in your life, but it would be a disservice to you (and the rest of the world) if I didn’t challenge you to ask yourself the very difficult question, “Is this a description of me?” If you’re honest, you probably find some of these characteristics in yourself. I know I do. At the very minimum, my wife could at least testify to the fact that I am not always easy to correct. In light of the fact that Christians will not be perfected before death, how do we test ourselves? John writes,
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for Godâ€™s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
1 John 3:4-10
Did you notice the key word? It’s practice. John recognizes that believers will sin (1 Jn. 2:1), so he essentially encourages his readers to test themselves by asking, “Do I thirst for righteousness and actively (and generally successfully) battle sin, or do I generally embrace and practice sin? Is my life generally marked by righteousness or sin?” Applying this principle to the two profiles in this study, I would encourage you to ask yourself if the characteristics/descriptions of the scoffer/mocker and/or the wicked generally describe who you are.
When in doubt, I recommend the following:
- Devote yourself to Scripture. The Word of God itself has the ability to provide discernment regarding our thoughts and desires (Heb. 4:12).
- Pray. Pray with the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
- Ask godly people who are willing to be honest with you.
If, after examining yourself, you do not believe you know Jesus, please click here. Again, I pray this is useful for your life. If I can be of any help to you, I’d love to hear from you, and if you have any comments, I’d love them below.