This post is the second in a series. For a list of posts in this series, please visit ANSWERING FOLLY: INTRODUCING THE TOPIC — PART 1.
The Purpose Of This Post
What is the point of this post? Supposedly, we intend to use the Bible to identify who among us are fools. In fact, the Bible does have much to say about fools and foolishness. If we search the New King James Version of the Bible for “fool,” we will get 196 hits. Those hits will, of course, include variations of the word such as foolish and fools. However, the word “wise” and variations occurs 220 times, and the word “wisdom” occurs 231 times. That’s because the Bible exists to teach us about wisdom, not how to be fools.
What does it mean to be wise? Consider how Proverbs begins.
Proverbs 1:1-7 New King James Version (NKJV)
1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
3 To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;
4 To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—
5 A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
6 To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Note that ending. Fools despise wisdom and instruction. Foolishness is not due to ignorance; it rises out of the rejection of wisdom. To be wise must seek wisdom.
Consider how Ecclesiastes ends.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 New King James Version (NKJV)
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
14 For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.
The Bible calls King Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, the wisest man who ever lived. Ecclesiastes tells us tells of Solomon’s search for happiness of all the things he tried. As an old man, he wrote Ecclesiastes and concluded the matter. As wise as he was, Solomon did many foolish things — until he finally recognized the need to fear God and keep His commandments.
What Solomon’s experience suggests is that the Bible doesn’t necessarily exist to tell us who is a fool; it exists to help us avoid foolishness and being a fool. Thus, Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes. Instead of repeating his experiences, he wanted to encourage people to learn from his experiences.
Does that mean we should not identify and deal with fools? No.
Considering Other Views
Matthew 5:22 cautions us against calling our brother a fool.
To call a brother a fool is to declare him to be worthless. If a man is but a fool, a blight on society, it would be better for all if he were dead. To conclude that one is worthless, then, is to come to the conclusion that the world would best be rid of him, which is but one short step from murder. Our Lord did not condemn the assessment of a person’s character, but the assassination of one’s character. (from here)
In his exposition of Proverbs 26:1-11 the author observes that:
- TO ASSOCIATE WITH FOOLS IS BOTH UNWISE AND UNPLEASANT.
- TO EMPLOY A FOOL IS A TRAGIC MISTAKE.
- FOOLISHNESS IS INHERENT IN CHILDREN AND THEREFORE PARENTS MUST KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH FOLLY WHEN IT OCCURS.
- FOOLS MUST BE DEALT WITH DIFFERENTLY THAN THOSE WHO ARE WISE.
Here are the problems with a fool.
- THE FOOL IS UNRIGHTEOUS.
- THE FOOL IS UNWISE.
- THE FOOL IS UNREALISTIC.
- THE FOOL IS UNDISCIPLINED.
- THE FOOL IS UNRELIABLE.
- THE FOOL IS UNTEACHABLE.
- THE FOOL IS UNPLEASANT, UNLIKED, AND UNDESIRABLE.
Quoting from multiple books in the Bible, but focusing on Proverbs, the author makes it clear that we must distinguish between the wise and the foolish.
What is the ultimate fool?
The ultimate description of a fool is one who “says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good” (Psalm 14:1;53:1). Although fools can choose to become wise by heeding wise counsel and applying it (Proverbs 8:5;21:11), the Bible warns against associating with fools (Proverbs 14:7).Proverbs 13:20says, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”(from here)
Nevertheless, we should not casually call someone a fool.
There is an important distinction between the biblical definition of a fool and the word Jesus used (raca) in Matthew 5:22when He forbade calling a Christian brother a “fool.” The term raca, spoken from a heart of contempt, implied utter worthlessness. Jesus was not saying that we cannot call the choices of another foolish. But to call someone “raca” was saying that this person was beyond the reach of God and therefore condemned forever. To say, “You fool!” to a brother or sister in that day was the equivalent of saying, “Damn you!” to someone today. We do not have the power or the right to condemn anyone to hell. (from here)
Instead of describing a fool, this article focuses on whether or not it is ever appropriate to call someone a fool.
When Jesus said in Matthew 5:22 that you should not call anyone a fool, contextually He was speaking of those who were unrighteously angry. That is why Jesus mentions anger in this verse. There is a righteous anger which is not sinful (Eph. 4:26 – “Be angry and do not sin . . .” ), as well as unrighteous anger that is sinful (James 1:20 – “for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God”). When God is angry with someone, He is always righteous in His anger. Jesus, being God in flesh (John 1:1,14; 20:28; Col. 2:9), can righteously be angry with people and pronounce upon them the foolishness of their deeds–which He did (Matt. 23:17). Also, undoubtedly, Jesus knew Psalm 14:1 which says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’ . . .” Jesus didn’t forget the well known verse, and God is not wrong for calling someone a fool, especially when it is true. (from here)
This article references Bible verses to describe different types of fools.
- The Simple Fool: The simple fool opens his mind to any passing thought and opens his arms to any passing stranger. In other words, he lacks discernment. He has an over-simplified view of life and fails to recognize the cause-and-effect sequences that affect every area of life. (See Proverbs 22:3.)
- The Silly Fool: A silly fool believes that his own way of thinking is right (see Proverbs 12:15), so much so that he reacts to instruction when it is offered: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools [’eviyl] despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7; see also Proverbs 10:21).
- The Sensual Fool: The sensual fool’s focus is on that which brings him immediate pleasure. He glories in that of which he should be ashamed.“It is as sport to a fool [kecîyl] to do mischief … ” (Proverbs 10:23; see also Proverbs 13:19–20).
- The Scorning Fool: This type of fool not only has rejected truth; he also has embraced that which is abominable to God. Psalm 1:1 describes the progression of foolishness, referring to a man who first walks “in the counsel of the ungodly,” then stands “in the way of sinners,” and finally sits “in the seat of the scornful [lûwts].”
- The Steadfast Fool: A steadfast fool totally rejects God and His ways. “The fool [nâbâl] hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good”(Psalm 14:1). This type of fool is self-confident and close-minded. He is his own god, freely gratifying his lower nature. It is his goal to draw as many others as possible into his evil ways.
The list of the different types of fools looks correct. However, there appears to be some disagreement (see here, here, and here). Since I cannot read the Bible in the languages in which it was originally written, that’s a technical dispute beyond my competence.
What Should We Conclude?
Of course we should believe in God. At least that is what God Himself indicated when he described Job to Satan with these words.
Job 1:8 New King James Version (NKJV)
8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”
Nevertheless, it seems that by Biblical standards someone can disbelieve in God and still not be a fool. Consider what Psalm 14:1 says.
Psalm 14:1 New King James Version (NKJV)
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.
In addition to disbelief in God, to be a fool a man must do what is wrong. Therefore, if an Atheist or an Agnostic is not committing abominable works, just because they say they don’t believe in God does not give us sufficient cause to berate them. If they are willing to listen, we can speak of God to such people, but whether they listen or not there is still no point in treating who behave well as if they do not.
More On The Definition Of A Fool
- Faith That Works-Introduction To Wisdom-James 3:13-15 (truthinpalmyra.wordpress.com)
- Intelligent Fools (insanitybytes2.wordpress.com)
- King Solomon’s Test – Part One (rudymartinka.wordpress.com)
- Stephen, the atheist, and the dew drop (thenakedtruth2.wordpress.com)
- SIH’s Think On These Things: Proverbs 12:15-16 (settledinheaven.wordpress.com) Note that Settled In Heaven has a complete series on Proverbs.
- An Appropriate Answer to Anger (thechristiangazette.wordpress.com)
- What does the Bible mean when it says “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’”? (altruistico.wordpress.com)
Modern Examples Of Foolishness
- Obama’s White House Scandals (rednova8.com)
- In New Jersey, a 72-Year Old Man Faces Prison Over Antique Flintlock Pistol (www.susankatzkeating.com)
- An Idea for A Portlandia Episode (edgeofthesandbox.wordpress.com) Warning! If you don’t like looking at almost naked, ugly people, skip the video.
- Army releases list of innocuous phrases it will no longer tweet (bluebirdofbitterness.com)
- Sins of The Fathers – Purged by Fire (definingthenarrative.com)