I was on my way to lunch the other day when a wild driver maniacally sped past me. And of course, after passing, he promptly cut me off just before reaching a red light. I thought, “What a fool.”
And I was right!
Now, I’ve always felt a little guilty about calling anyone a fool (Matthew 5:22: “…whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”). However, that’s what his license plate said! Really. Above is my photo, taken over the hood of my car on that strange day. What a fittingly descriptive license! It perfectly suited his driving style. (I suspect it’s also true of his lifestyle: Hurried, selfish, always right and guilt-free.)
That got me to thinking about fools since the Bible speaks to the subject only a couple hundred times or so. As you would imagine, most of the references to foolishness are in Psalms and Proverbs. But a thoughtful read through those verses is fascinating. Whether described millennia ago, or on the landing page of CNN’s website, or on a license plate, fools are really easy to spot.
The biblical texts reveal that fools come in a variety of shapes and sizes. It seems there are at least three general categories where we find the foolish:
Nations and Cities
Clearly there are groups of fools which find in common a nation or a city. For example:
- Israel (Deuteronomy 32:6, “Do you thus repay the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you.” And again in Numbers 12:11, “Then Aaron said to Moses, ‘Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account this sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned.’”)
- The princes of Zoan (Isaiah 19:13, “The princes of Zoan have acted foolishly, the princes of Memphis are deluded; Those who are the cornerstone of her tribes have led Egypt astray.”)
- Galatia (Galatians 3:1 “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?”)
The Bible actually calls out several individuals who are foolish. Ironically, some of the smartest also reveal their stupidity.
- King Saul (1 Samuel 26:21, “Then Saul said, ‘I have sinned. Return, my son David, for I will not harm you again because my life was precious in your sight this day. Behold, I have played the fool and have committed a serious error.’”)
- King David (1 Chronicles 21:8, “David said to God, ‘I have sinned greatly, in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.’”)
- Job’s wife (Job 2:10, “But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.)
People who share common attributes
Certain attributes which people display also get lumped together. Here are just a few common characteristics.
- Atheists (Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.”)
- Those who spurn God’s authority (Psalm 74:18, “Remember this, O Lord, that the enemy has reviled, and a foolish people has spurned Your name.”)
- The rebellious (Psalm 107:17, “Fools, because of their rebellious way, and because of their iniquities, were afflicted.)
- Slanderers (Proverbs 10:18, “He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who spreads slander is a fool.”
Yes, it’s pretty easy to identify a fool. When you read through the “fool verses” you find a long list of common traits. Below is just a partial list. And I’m sad to say that this list describes, in disappointingly accurate fashion, so many of our governmental authorities. One in particular. Here’s how the Bible describes attributes of the foolish. He/She:
- Dishonors and embarrasses mother and father
- Hates wisdom, instruction and learning
- Gossips and slanders
- Is Imprudent and undisciplined
- Wicked and mocks those who walk uprightly
- Proudly encourages others to act the same
- Thinks he’s always right
- Speaks without thinking
- Selfish pleasure seeker
- Filled with anger and quarrels
- Lies and speaks nonsense
- Unteachable and repeatedly doesn’t even learn from his own bad habits
- Self-promoting and self-aggrandizing
See what I mean? Did you think the same thing I did after reading the list? And I didn’t even mention “tweeting.”
Just to give this some balance, there’s some great scriptural and common wisdom advice for fools. At times, I confess, has also helped me! Here are three specific tactics for foolish thinking:
- Keep your mouth shut. It’s not always necessary to offer an opinion. As the old yarn says, “Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Also, Plato pointed out, “Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.”
- Discipline yourself—it leads to wise thinking and living. Proverbs 12:1 speaks to the lesson: “He that loves discipline loves knowledge, and he that hates reproof is a fool.”
- Learn from others, keeping an open mind. There just might be a better way. The intelligencia embrace the idea: “Wise men learn by other men’s mistakes, fools by their own.”
So when you think of a list of wise people in the Bible, who comes to mind? Certainly Solomon. His wisdom was renown. But then again, how smart could he be if he relented to the drive of his natural desires, acting the fool?
His father, David, seemed wise as well. A young hero. A brave leader who was loved before he even became king. But Scripture says he also acted foolishly. How about the first king of Israel, Saul? Frankly, the same. For each of these three, their lack of accountability led to many selfish and foolish decisions.
There’s really only one person in the Bible who perfectly exemplified the qualities of the wise. Jesus, of course.
His patience, lack of pride, service to others, sensitivity, self-effacing nature are evidence. He’s our model. He’s our focus. We study and learn from his life. And that’s why, every day, Charles Morris leads us through the Scriptures. Haven Today is all about the wisest man who ever lived, Jesus Christ.