James 3-13This 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)

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:

To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;
To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—
A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
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

Bob Deffinbaugh‘s View @

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:


Here are the problems with a fool.


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.

How does the Bible describe a fool? @

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)

Can we call someone a fool or not? @

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)

What are five types of fools?Institute in Basic Life Principles

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)

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

Modern Examples Of Foolishness

82 thoughts on “ANSWERING FOLLY: WHO IS A FOOL? — PART 2

  1. Tom – your last comment makes no sense whatsoever. You know perfectly well that I am no champion of the quality of public education in this country. It is completely variable, ranging from excellent to abysmal. I have acknowledged this many times before. My disagreement with you is that I do not see a system of public education as a usurpation of familial obligations to transmit cultural and religious values. Anyone who would surrender those obligations to government operatives can’t be much of a parent.

    When you and the other guy who forms your “we” ricochet off into the hypothetical world of socialism, you are talking about something that is not within my realm of experience. I have lived and worked in countries that have more widespread governmental involvement than does this one, but my comments here are based on living in the United States. If you want to talk about particular cases, name the country. There is tremendous variation even between countries that have some degree of “socialist” programs. Some work better than others, some fail completely, and some are more inclined to use socialism as a hammer to suppress thought and ideas than others. If we’re going to go down that road (although I think it a distraction here) let’s be specific.

    1. scout – When our nation was founded, the Federal Government remained a small concern for years, and state and local government did not educate children, but most people could read, and the only thing they had to read was the Bible and pamphlets like the one Thomas Paine published.. Now? Why don’t you go look up the stats?

      Then, because people did not have so much help from the government, they were fabulously rich in comparison to the rest of the world.

  2. Keith – It’s true that I’ve paid (as has everyone else) a ton of money for education of my kids (and other people’s children as well). I can’t speak for everyone (nor can you), but my kids (one who went to religious, private schools and one who went to public schools) were not bludgeoned by “statist, negative, progressive beliefs.” They learned math, science, languages, history, literature, etc. And as you acknowledge, I and many of my peers feel we have had no difficulty passing on strong patriotic values to our children.

    I’m sure that there are places where it is considered “cool” to think ill of aspects of US history (I think specifically of the early 1970s on many university campuses). There are also places where one can objectively come to the conclusion that there are instances of “unfairness, mistreatment, and inequality” in the history of this country. But there are also many places and individuals that view these objective instances of shortcoming as the exceptions that prove the higher principle – that the United States is a country that can learn from its mistakes and that its bedrock principles and values are a force for good in the world.

    1. You talked past Keith’s points too.

      With Common Core and a nationalized education system, we won’t have to worry about variation between public school systems. They will all be bad.

      Consider that the Federal budget is almost twice that of state and local budgets combined. How did that happen? It is in the Constitution. Really?

      Where in the Constitution is authorization for a Dept of Ed? It isn’t there, but that is not stopping our leaders from nationalizing what should be purely private concerns.

      Unless there is clear abuse involved, it is not my business to tell you how to educate your children, and it is not your business to tell me how to educate mine. Yet unless we get rid of our socialist public education system there will be no stopping leaders from taking our money from us and using that money to educate our children “for us.”

      Please get it through your head. Taxation is not a trivial matter. When people refuse to pay their taxes, uniformed gentlemen with guns visit their houses.

  3. Tom – the public school system in America is intended to be a non-religious institution, as you note. That’s one of the very great things about America’s constitutional system and our willingness to protect religion against government interference, debasement, corruption, and degradation. But how does that in any way interfere with parents’ ability to try to instill religious values in their children? As I mentioned above, I’ve never known anyone with kids who was prevented or hindered in their religious instruction (maybe there are some crazy outlier things like active cannibal of cannibis cults where the safety of the children comes into play – but those are exceptions). If, as your stated rationale seems to suggest, that “cannot pass on their beliefs to their children” because of the existence of public schools, I would think you would view the only solution as a parent being able to go down to the school building during the day and teach religion to his kid at that site. What is the point of that? Why not just do it at home before or after school? Or, better yet, set an example in day-by-day living?

    1. You did not reply to the issues I raised.

      You just pretended those issues don’t exist.

      Let me put it to you this way. The public school system is about power. To ensure children receive an education, the government does not have to run a secular school system. So why are we doing it? When a perfectly good private option exists, government-run anything is always more expensive. Government-run anything also infringes upon the People’s right to choose for themselves. Since government has the right to levy taxes, we don’t get a choice about paying. Whether we use what the government offers or not, we still have to pay.

      Do people have a right to choose how they educate their children? Does our government-run education system interfere with that right? Of course, it does. If you still have to pay regardless, you don’t have funds you could have used to exercise your own preference. So the only issue here is why you insist upon pretending otherwise? What a pitiful thing to do!

      1. My experience (and I doubt that it is atypical) is that it costs nothing to pass on beliefs and principles to one’s children. It sounds to me as if you are being hyperbolic in your complaints about restraints on parents’ abilities to provide moral guidance to their children. I do not believe such restraints exist (perhaps at the margins – for example if parents’ moral beliefs are acts of human sacrifice or some such extreme hypothetical). I think your real complaint is that you don’t like paying local taxes to support public schools. I guess none of us does at some level, but we all get benefits, whether or not we have children in those schools. If you can rally a majority of voters to abolish public schools in your area, you can perhaps do away with public schools there. I think, however, that most voters perceive that there are benefits to a well-regarded public school system and would be loathe to do without it.

        1. You just made the typical argument for bigger and bigger and bigger government. I suppose you also think the public school system is giving children an excellent civic education.

          Even if Socialism was not immoral (It is just a fancy way of stealing.), it is horribly impractical. When we operate within a system that respects private property rights (such as the free enterprise system), each of takes responsibility for our own conduct and providing for ourselves. Then when we encounter problems, we rely upon the honest generosity of our neighbors. When we operate within a system where all property is shared jointly (such as a Socialist system), each of must take responsibility for everyone else’s conduct and providing for everyone else. That is, the more the government does, the more the average citizen has to know about how the government works and what the government is doing. Otherwise, we cannot keep the rascals who run this country from robbing us and enslaving us.

        2. @scout, who wrote: “My experience (and I doubt that it is atypical) is that it costs nothing to pass on beliefs and principles to one’s children.”

          But the competition is that you also pay tens of thousands of dollars a year in tuition for others to pass on statist, negative, progressive beliefs to your children. The federal government is currently engaged in expanding their ability to do this effectively at the K-12 level, where currently it is quite powerful mostly at the college level.

          At the K-12 part of the process, it generally costs taxpayers only thousands of dollars per year, not tens of thousands. But this cost is redistributed to the small portion of the citizenry who pay net positive taxes. The federal usurpation of student loans for college is to accomplish the same sort of redistribution, by moving this burden onto the taxpayers rather than the students themselves.

          But money aside, the beliefs and principles being taught (and with Common Core, this is being pushed into grade school) are generally poisonous to the United States as a nation of one people, independent, and independent of race, creed or religion.

          You may attempt to pass on your beliefs, and your patriotism (I obviously don’t mean you personally) and many are successful at it. But most lose this battle, largely because the youth have more waking exposure and cultural connection to the school environment.

          It is “cool” to believe that the founders of the United States were oppressive white men bent on domination of those around them, and that the United States is and has always been a nation of unfairness, mistreatment, and inequality, harmful to the planet, that deserves to lose its too-high standing in the world.

          ==============/ Keith DeHavelle

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