Prov. 1:7; 29:11; 17:10; 26:11; 19:3; 28:26
The last couple of days we’ve looked at a couple of men who are supposed to be “warning shots” to us (“He gets shot and that’s a warning to the next guy”). We studied the mocker and the simple man, and today we’re going to examine the type of man who’s mentioned most frequently in the book of Proverbs, the fool. A cursory word search tells us that the book of Proverbs mentions him around 72 times. Actually I could have picked several more verses for today, but I pared them down to six. He’ll crop up some more as we delve into more specific topics.
So what do we mean by the term “fool”? Like the term “simple” from yesterday, we have to go beyond the common definition. We mentioned this back in January, but it bears repeating: Notice the footnote at the end of 1:7. The term in Hebrew is not talking about someone who’s intellectually deficient, but someone who’s morally deficient. He’s made a conscious decision not to do things God’s way. He might not be as openly rebellious and defiant as the mocker, but as we’ll see he’s going to end up in a place that’s not pretty.
So what do we learn about him from these verses? In 1:7 he’s contrasted with someone who fears the Lord, and he despises wisdom and. . . .discipline. So here’s one characteristic: he’s undisciplined. He doesn’t like to be “tied down” to a schedule or responsibilities.
Second, and this is linked to the lack of self-discipline, he has no self-control. He “gives full vent to [his] rage.” If he’s mad about something, then he makes sure the whole world knows about it. We’ll talk about appropriate anger at another time, but for now we need to understand that his anger is obviously not under God’s control, or anyone else’s.
Third, from 17:10 and 26:11 we discover that he doesn’t learn from his mistakes. Wise people listen to a good rebuke, but it takes a lot more to get the attention of a fool. And he keeps making the same mistakes over and over. I love my dogs dearly, but they have some pretty disgusting habits. However, they’re just going off instinct, and the fool has no excuse.
And speaking of excuses, he makes plenty of them for himself. Doesn’t 19:3 really describe a lot of people? Someone smokes like a chimney or drinks like a fish and gets angry at God when their body’s health starts to break down. They sleep around and are surprised when they get an STD. They make poor financial decisions and wonder why they’re always struggling to pay their bills.
But there’s hope. If you read the description of this man, he might seem more familiar than you might find comfortable. All of us find ourselves walking in his footsteps more often than we care to admit. So what’s the cure? The last verse hints at something we’ve been saying all along. Quit trusting in yourself. You don’t have the resources to really change from the inside-out. Don’t be like the dog that keeps on going back to. . . the same old habits again. Cast yourself on the Lord’s mercy and grace, first to forgive you and then to change you. He’s waiting.
Lord Jesus, I'm so foolish at times. Please forgive and make me like you. I want to walk in wisdom, and to get to know you better.