The Picture of a Fool

Intro: In Matthew 5:22 Jesus warned against calling a person a fool. Well, Jesus gives a serious warning here, He is progressively describing one who would slander, and by extension even murder his brother, through maliciousness and hatred.

  • The psalmist calls the professed atheist a fool in Prov. 14:1
  • Jesus called the rich man a fool is the parable of Luke 12
  • Jesus used this same term (foolish) to rebuke the men on the road to Emmaus because they did not see the true meaning of the OT scriptures concerning His suffering.
  • It is one thing t be considered a fool by your disgruntled brother. It is another thing to be considered a fool by God.

What does a fool look like? Who does God consider to be foolish? The Bible gives us a picture:

I. Defining a Fool: What is a fool? Have you ever met one? There are several ways to define foolishness. We can learn some from viewing the opposite quality of wisdom. Wisdom is more than knowledge or understanding. It is the ability to discern between right and wrong, and to put one’s knowledge to practice in a manner that is beneficial.

A. There are 3 Hebrew words that are translated as fool in the O.T.

1. ewil – From an unused root (meaning to be perverse); (figuratively) silly: – fool (-ish) (man)

2. kecil – (kes-eel’) – properly fat, (figuratively) stupid or silly

3. nâbâl (naw-bawl’) – stupid; wicked (especially impious): vile person

B. The Fool in the Bible – (The word fool is most often found in 3 of the books of the O.T. known as the wisdom literature (Psalms, Proverbs & Ecclesiastes) Prov 14:99 Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is favor. In the Bible the fool is not just ignorant or unwise in the ways of the world, but he is morally foolish. He mocks at sin, or ridicules the authority of God.

        • Ps 53:1 – 1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.

1. Being foolish, biblically defined, is serious. The fool can never be what God expects of him. He is on a course of spiritual self- destruction and unless he becomes “wise” he will be lost.

II. How to Be A Fool. Although we probably do not need a “how-to” lesson on foolishness, the Bible does provide a rather comprehensive picture of what one can do to prove himself a fool.

A. Trust in Yourself Alone. Prov 12:1515 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise. Prov 28:26 – 26 He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.

1. The fool arrogantly sees himself as the final authority on every issue. He is a know-it-all, who despises wisdom and instruction. (Prov.1:7) Prov 18:2 – 2 A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.

a. Do you read the instructions or just assume you know how to do it? Prov 18:1313 He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him. Many people expose themselves in this because they do not listen to learn, they listen to answer back, and may not even hear what the other person is saying.

B. Don’t Listen to Others – He distrusts or disdains the advice of others. Prov 15:55 A fool despises his father’s instruction, but he who receives correction is prudent. Prov 23:9 – 9 Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.

1. Prov 10:8 – 8 The wise in heart will receive commands, but a prating fool will fall.

a. This proverb exposes the final end of the folly of not receiving counsel from others – he will fall (presumably into sin).

b. It also describes this fool as a “prating fool” or “babbling”. Matthew Henry describes him as a “fool of lips, full of talk… full of nonsense.” They attempt to give advice to others, while rejecting any advice themselves. In fact, he may not be able to communicate well with those who could advice him because he is constantly “babbling” and not listening.

C. Refuse Correction: Prov 12:1 – Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. Prov 17:10 – A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.

1. Wise people only have to be told, but fools are those who must suffer the consequences of their decisions before they learn. (school of hard knocks)

a. The fool has no regard for the consequences of the rod of correction. Prov 19:29 – – 29 Judgments are prepared for scoffers, and beatings for the backs of fools.

2. Notice the descriptions of Prov 26:3A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools. This proverb describes the severe discipline that it takes to motivate the fool to correct his behavior. Horses are wild, harder to train, and require a whip; donkeys are easier and only need a bit, but fools require a lashing with a stick. These animals are better suited for molding into useful creatures than fools. The wise man is not advocating that we beat people in order to get them to act more wisely. But he is illustrating the severe stubbornness and rebellion that characterizes the foolish person.

3. The fool develops a stubborn spirit and resists real change.

            • Prov 27:22 Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him.
            • Prov 26:11 Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.

a. Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same things the same way and expecting different results. What’s the major difference between the simple or naïve and the fool? There is little hope for the fool. The fool can always find fresh excuses for his behavior, because he does not intend to change.

D. Act Impulsively: Another Characteristic of the fool is a lack of real self-control. The fool acts impulsively, often simply following his feelings without real rational thinking.

1. Prov 14:29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. This may be the character trait that we witness in the man named “fool”, Nabal. He impulsively rejected David’s appeal for help and put himself in great danger. He is described as one who was “harsh in his dealings”, and later his servant said that he was such a “scoundrel that no one could speak to him” (1 Sam. 25:17)

2. There is an interesting passage in Prov 17:24 – 24 Wisdom is in the sight of him who has understanding, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. What does this proverb mean? The NIV translation is helpful. Prov 17:24 – 24 A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth. (NIV)

a. a wise person finds wisdom and keeps it close by, ready at hand. But the fool is always looking for it someplace else. He never seems to find the advice he is looking for. He searches for answers in the most remote places, while ignoring the good advice that is at hand. One commentator says this fool “flutters about fantastically from one thing to another…”

b. This may describe the person who never settles on any answers or convictions. Thus he acts on impulse rather than a settled principle that does not change. He acts upon what feels good, right, now. He disdains objective truth. It is not appealing to him.

III. How To Answer the Fool: The book of Proverbs also gives us counsel on how to react to foolish people.

A. Answer not, but answer – Prov 26:4-5 – 4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.(NIV) These two verses seemed so contradictory to the Rabbis that many used them to question the canonicity of the book itself. But there is no contradiction here – just wisdom revealed paradoxically.

1. vs. 4 – It is foolish to answer a fool according to his folly. When the answer gives credence to the foolish question, then do not answer. When answering demands that I participate in his folly then I should not answer. Keil & Delitzch states… “a fool can ask more than ten wise men can answer.” He who recognizes such questions as justifiable, and thus sanctions them, places himself on an equality with the fool, and easily himself becomes one.”

2. vs. 5 – But there is a time when we must respond to the fool. When he would receive a hearing and convert others to his foolishness. Barnes says verse 5 means to “say the right word at the right time, to expose his unwisdom and untruth to others and to himself, not by a teaching beyond his reach, but by words that he is just able to apprehend.”

3. We can see this approach in Jesus: Matt 26:62-64 – 62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” 64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

a. Jamieson makes this distinction: Where it is only thine own honour that is at stake, be silent …when the glory of God or the good of thy neighbour is involved, speak.”

VI. Psalm 49 – This is an intriguing Psalm. The Psalmist is giving counsel that he wants everyone to hear. (v.1)

  • v. 3 – He comes claiming to speak words of wisdom. This wisdom is from above, has its source in God. Men do not see this, or act in regards to these words.
  • v. 5- Why should I fear? – the Psalmist admonishes against being fearful when evil becomes prevalent. That makes this a relevant Psalm today. We are perplexed by evil, and the apparent success of those who do not care about God. But we should not fear or be intimidated by this. This is not a new admonition. Jesus often told his disciples to not be afraid.
  • But his reasons why we should be fearless are rather unique. He wants us to see the way of the world, and those who might seem to be powerful or intimidating. He says they are fools, and thus pose no real threat to God’s people. There foolishness has a natural end.
    • Read Ps 49:6-13 – Those who trust in their wealth And boast in the multitude of their riches, 7 None of them can by any means redeem his brother, Nor give to God a ransom for him — 8 For the redemption of their souls is costly, And it shall cease forever — 9 That he should continue to live eternally, And not see the Pit. 10 For he sees wise men die; Likewise the fool and the senseless person perish, And leave their wealth to others. 11 Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever, Their dwelling places to all generations; They call their lands after their own names. 12 Nevertheless man, though in honor, does not remain; He is like the beasts that perish. 13 This is the way of those who are foolish, And of their posterity who approve their sayings.
    • notice the characteristics of the fools of this world –
    • They think they will live forever, or that they can redeem themselves from what has happened everyone else — death. Even though he sees wise men and foolish men die, and no one takes anything with them, he still continues to think that HIS house will last forever. Men name buildings and streets after themselves believing that their memory will live on after they die. Although we do praise other men, there is no difference. They are like the beasts. (the grave of Rebekah’s rabbit… Princess. I cannot tell where that sacred place is anymore, but that is not because it was just a rabbit. (Graveyards turn into parking lots.)
  • v. 15 – But the Lord will redeem my life from the grave. – He will take me to himself. This is the truly wise man. The one who puts his trust in the Lord.

Conclusion: Eph 5:17 – 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. The wise person is the one who is taught by God through His counsel.

The wise person seeks to full please God, knowing that it is God that can deliver them from evil.

  • Col 1:9-14For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.