A Fool's Problems
As we continue with our look at the Bible's definition of and warnings about fools, we find that the writers of Proverbs identify many problems a fool has. Let’s take a look now at some of those issues:
“A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly” (Proverbs 12:23). Generally, fools don’t keep their thoughts to themselves. They want others to know what they are thinking, and their airing of opinions often requires that the wise listen with discernment. This verse also could be warning that you can’t trust a fool with a secret. If she deems it in her best interest to share what she knows, she will do so even it that sharing is detrimental to you.
A similar warning about a fool’s speech is given in Proverbs 18:7, “A fool’s mouth is his undoing and his lips are a snare to his soul.” Not all fools, but many, tend to be talkative. They usually like to be the center of attention, and talking is one way to make sure that happens. They often make promises they can’t keep and sometimes those promises are meant to manipulate, not to deliver. Foolish people are not concerned about sticking to pure truth. Instead, facts get exaggerated and twisted if they are trying to make a point.
Fools tend to enjoy sinful activities. “A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct” (Proverbs 10:23a) and “Fools detest turning from evil” (Proverbs 13:19b). A fool will not acknowledge that God has a set of standards by which he must live. Instead, even if he knows God’s rules, he will rationalize his behavior sometimes like this:
“My situation is different.”
“I can handle these things when others can’t.”
“Even God would understand why I need this pleasure in my life.”
Fools often choose self-indulgent lifestyles which may include improper use of alcohol or drugs, immoral sexual relationships, gambling, overspending, pornography, or other activities that the wise would know enough to avoid. The foolish person can rationalize every decision as being OK for him, but he might acknowledge that these things may not be good for everyone.
We find that a biblical fool resists taking responsibility for her own actions. “Fools mock at making amends for sin” (Proverbs 14:9a). And another, “A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord” (Proverbs 19:3). One of the hurts and frustrations of trying to relate to a fool is that nothing is her fault, the blame is all yours or someone else’s – even God’s sometimes. It’s seen in many abusive situations where the abused party is told it was what they said or did that caused the fool to act as she did. The fool thinks if her spouse were different, if her fellow workers acted better, if her kids were more respectful, or if people in general were smarter, she would behave better.
“A fool is hotheaded and reckless” (Proverbs 14:16). Fools express anger easily and often. The anger of many fools is loud and bold, but some use the method of silence or withdrawal as an expression of revenge or anger. Neither is the way of wisdom. Just trying to hold a foolish person accountable for his actions will cause an angry response as we read here: “If a wise man goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace” (Proverbs 29:9). If you accuse a fool, he will retaliate.
The Bible tells us that fools are always trying to outsmart the system. “He who plots evil will be known as a schemer. The schemes of folly are sin and men detest a mocker” (Proverbs 24:8-9). Mocker is a word used in Proverbs as a synonym for fool, so this verse is about foolish people who don’t accept things as they are. Instead, they plot and scheme to get the best of every situation. Then they rejoice when they “win,” even if it means taking advantage of another. No wonder the wisdom writers tell us that men detest such people!
A lovable fool?
Here’s the problem: Fools can sometimes be lovable and that’s why we get drawn into relationship with them. They might give great gifts, they are fun- loving, they can be quick-witted and funny, and when they want you to do something for them, they can be downright charming. (1) It’s easy to love a fool at those times and, once we are drawn in, we tend to overlook the negatives because the lovable side is so appealing and meets needs for us. But, long-term relationship with a fool, as we will see, can be dangerous.
The more we understand God’s view of both wisdom and foolishness, we begin to see we must trust God to give us judgment and understanding so we can deal with our difficult person in a way that is healthy and good for us and for them. We’ll cover that next time.
(1) Silvious, Jan. Foolproofing Your Life. Colorado Springs, Colorado: WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc., 1998, p. 32-33