|Folly and the Way of Fools (Chapter
Only the Lord God is omniscient. Each of us is ignorant of many things. We often find ourselves not knowing what to do. In such situations a wise man looks for someone who does have knowledge, and he learns from him. If this is not possible, and he is forced to act, a wise man will rely upon what he does know before responding. Then when he does act he will respond cautiously (except perhaps in unavoidable emergencies when he must rely upon his trained instincts).
We may fail because of unavoidable ignorance or misinformation, and suffer because of it; but there is no condemnation in not having knowledge. Jesus once told some Pharisees,
And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:16-21; RSV).
Children might be considered developmental fools, but the Bible does not actually classify them as fools. Children, in whose heart Solomon said folly abounds, are not called fools because they have not had the opportunities of time and experience to learn right and wrong. They are simple-minded, undeveloped, naive, gullible. They are inexperienced to the dangers of the world; they are too trusting and too careless.
…the simple pass on, and are punished (Proverbs 22:3; KJV).
…the simple pass on, and suffer for it (Proverbs 27:12; ASV).
The root cause of the type of personality called the fool is a resistance to being educated. It is a self-imposed disease of the soul. The extent to which a man is a fool is a direct result of the extent to which he tries to live without acquiring knowledge or developing his mind, whether in regard to any one thing or as a general lifestyle. Those who most fully embrace this attitude I call classic fools. They are most commonly found among incorrigible youths.
From the first chapter of Proverbs, we find that fools blindly reject all knowledge, advice, and counsel. Indeed, they hate knowledge and reproof. They do not choose the fear of the Lord, but instead they turn away from wisdom, and remain complacent in ignorance. Notice their resistance to learning.
How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Give heed to my reproof; behold, I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, and you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you, when panic strikes you Like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not And me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacence of fools destroys them… (Proverbs 1:22-31; RSV).
…he that hateth reproof is brutish (Proverbs 12:1; KJV).
A fool despiseth his father's instruction… (Proverbs 15:5; KJV).
Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die (Proverbs 15:10; KJV).
He that refuseth correction despiseth his own soul… (Proverbs15:32; ASV).
The fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion (Proverbs 18:2; RSV).
…it is abomination to fools to depart from evil (Proverbs 13:19; KJV).
Folly is joy to him that is void of wisdom… (Proverbs 15:21; ASV).
As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly (Proverbs 26:11; KJV).
…a fool's heart [inclines him] toward the left (Ecclesiastes 10:2; RSV).
Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it? (Proverbs 17:16; KJV).
Wisdom is too high for a fool: he openeth not his mouth in the gate (Proverbs 24:7; KJV).
…he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly (Proverbs 14:29; KJV).
…every fool will be quarrelling (Proverbs 20:3; ASV).
If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet (Proverbs 29:9; RSV).
A fool gives full vent to his anger… (Proverbs 29:11; RSV).
Be not quick to anger, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools (Ecclesiastes 7:9; RSV).
…fools proclaim their folly (Proverbs 12:23; RSV).
…a fool flaunteth his folly (Proverbs 13:16; ASV).
…folly is the garland of fools (Proverbs 14:24; RSV).
…that which is in the inward part of fools is made known (Proverbs 14:33; RV).
A fool has only to walk along the road and, having no sense, he makes plain to all what a fool he is (Ecclesiasties 10:3; MLB).
The foolish scoff at guilt… (Proverbs 14:9; RHM).
…the fool rageth, and is confident (Proverbs 14:16; KJV).
…the heart of fools is perverted (Proverbs 15:7; NAB).
When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord (Proverbs 19:3; RSV).
He who trusts in his own mind is a fool… (Proverbs 28:26; RSV).
…a stupid man's eyes are roving everywhere (Proverbs 17:24; NEB).
The fool folds his hands together and consumes his own flesh (Ecclesiastes 4:5; JB).
The toil of a fool wearies him, so that he does not know the way to the city (Ecclesiastes 10:15; RSV).
Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly (Proverbs 17:12; RSV).
…a foolish man swalloweth it [precious treasure] up (Proverbs 21:20; ASV).
A stone is heavy, and sand is weighty, but a fool's provocation is heavier than both (Proverbs 27:3; RSV).
…he that uttereth a slander is a fool (Proverbs 10:18; RV).
The speech of a fool is a rod for his back… (Proverbs 14:3; NEB).
…the mouth of fools poureth out folly (Proverbs 15:2; ASV).
…the mouths of fools feed on folly (Proverbs 15:14; RSV).
Fine speech is not becoming to a fool; still less is false speech to a prince (Proverbs 17:7; RSV).
A fool's lips bring strife, and his mouth invites a flogging. A fool's mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to himself (Proverbs 18:6, 7; RSV).
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him (Proverbs 18:13; KJV).
He who goes about gossiping reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with one who speaks foolishly (Proverbs 20:19; RSV).
Like a lame man's legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools (Proverbs 26:7; RSV).
As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools (Proverbs 26:9; KJV).
If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet (Proverbs 29:9; RSV).
…the lips of a fool consume him. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is wicked madness. A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him? (Ecclesiastes 10:12-14; RSV).
Being totally self-centered, their disregard for the feelings of others naturally generates friction. Thus, they are quarrelsome and often in conflict with others. They are easily recognized because they are so transparent. They expose themselves like little children. They are as obvious as a raucous, staggering drunk man in a saloon. They announce to all that they are dumb, immature, stupid, senseless dolts. They broadcast the message that they are clowns and fools. They do not have sense enough to care. They cannot see far enough ahead to know the grief that they bring upon themselves. If forced to labor, they quickly become exhausted and confused. They require constant oversight and supervision, which is deeply resented. The results of their efforts are usually bungling failures. Like hogs in a man’s house, they are out of place with, and unfit for, fine things. Properly cared for, goods can last for years; but at their hands they age and wear out overnight. Like everything else about them their language is unrestrained, excessive, vulgar, and senseless. Having no intelligent knowledge, they talk of stupidity and comedy. It is unproductive and unhealthy; it is without redeeming value. Worst, it is provocative and irritating, like the constant barking of dogs. They hate anyone who speaks intelligently of knowledgeable things; not understanding, they just mock and laugh in response. Their unrestrained use of talk often gets them into trouble simply because it is so irritating and insulting.
These kinds of men may look funny on a screen; but in real life they are miserable to be around. Their lives involve a constant tumultuous cycle between the thrills of pleasure and the sorrows of grief. They are tragic, pathetic creatures both to be pitied and condemned; because they are at once blind victims of their primitive nature, while at the same time, they have freely chosen to live that way; and they hurt everyone who tries to improve them. This type of composite mentality appears to be such a threat to childhood that almost the entire first one-third of Proverbs is a plea directed toward the young, urging them to acquire wisdom: the only treatment that will either prevent or cure the malady. Solomon's words "my son," "sons," "children" are used to address the reader about twenty times within those first six pages of Proverbs. Solomon warned the young against indulging in a devil-may-care, happy-go-lucky life. Do not play it away in ignorance and pleasure, he said.
Solomon warned against involvement with fools. It is best, he said, to avoid them; otherwise, simply respond with disapproval.
Leave the presence of a man who is a fool, for you will not discern words of knowledge there (Proverbs 14:7; MLB).
Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words (Proverbs 23:9; KJV).
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit (Proverbs 26:4, 5; KJV).
He who sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence (Proverbs 26:6; RSV).
As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool (Proverbs 26:8; KJV).
As an archer that woundeth all, so is he that hireth a fool and he that hireth them that pass by (Proverbs 26:10; ASV).
…a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding (Proverbs 10:13; KJV).
Condemnation is ready for scoffers, and flogging for the backs of fools (Proverbs 19:29; RSV).
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back (Proverbs 26:3; KJV).
Though you should pound the fool to bits with the pestle, amid the grits in a mortar, his folly would not go out of him (Proverbs 27:22; NAB).
Treatment for those who are addicted to folly appears to differ little from that used to cure folly in children. It involves a spirit of humility with the right mental orientation (penitence); a willingness to endure much suffering; and the establishment of good habits of living. These are the basic ingredients in the Lord's prescription for everyone's spiritual health. This message permeates the Bible. The key to cure, however, remains the state of a man’s will. How a man chooses to live has a certain effect on the health of his body, but it has an even more profound effect on the health of his soul. The courageous efforts of a physician (or a team of physicians) can save the life of a man whose body is in critical condition only if the body cooperates. No amount of effort on the part of another (no! not even the Lord God) can save a man’s soul unless his spirit chooses to cooperate. It is the nature of our God given freedom. For example, Jeremiah said:
Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of any one, says the Lord God; so turn, and live (Ezekiel 18:30-32; RSV).
Copyright 1997 by Walter
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