The word “fool” is used nearly 40 times in the book of Proverbs. Solomon used it more often than any other writer in Scripture. The word appears primarily in the wisdom literature. It was used to describe a person who, in general, lacked wisdom. Sometimes a fool was one who despised wisdom or discipline.
According to Proverbs 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Closely tied to this train of thought, Proverbs 14:7 teaches us, “Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge.”
Fools are arrogant and careless (Proverbs 14:16). To me, one verse that rises above the rest is Proverbs 18:2, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.” If you don’t believe the truth of this verse, you have never watched talk shows on television.
Aristotle said, “There is a foolish corner in the brain of the wisest man.” Today, we have numerous tests to evaluate our intellectual knowledge. We test students from grade school through high school to evaluate if they are “college material.” We require everyone from doctors, accountants, pharmacists and realtors to take tests. In many professions, tests are required to maintain your credentials and license.
We would be foolish if we entrusted our medicine, health, or finances to a person who wasn’t qualified. Typically, we look to someone who is seasoned and tested for advice and help.We live in a world where our kids are learning at a rapid pace. Knowledge is doubling every seventeen months. What once took centuries, now takes only a matter of months. Preschoolers are learning to work computers. Courses that were once reserved for college are now being taught in middle school. Learning and comprehension are exploding all around us. Even the most well read can’t keep up. It’s overwhelming. Parents are intimidated by their kid’s knowledge and awareness of facts.
However, knowledge without discernment is dangerous. You can be intellectually advanced and be morally depraved or emotionally immature. As our kids grow up too fast and too soon, they have more “knowledge” than their grandparents, but lack the maturity they need. While they can decipher math problems, they still struggle with insecurities. They can solve various scenarios in the classroom, but don’t have a clue how to manage their allowance.
It is foolish to think that knowing facts makes one wise. It is foolish to conclude that, because you know more than someone in a particular area, you are wiser than they. It is equally foolish to think that you can get something for nothing. Yet, this country is filled with people who foolishly pursue this philosophy.
One of the most obvious signs of the foolish person is the belief that he or she can get something for nothing. This kind of foolishness is revealed in every lottery ticket and at every slot machine. People who live at the poverty level spend money on lottery tickets hoping to become millionaires. The whole lottery and gambling industry is built on the foolish concept that everyone can get something for little or nothing.
The numbers are a little dated, but the point is still valid. A few years ago, a Seattle, Washington newspaper published an article entitled, “The Cost of Nothing Index.” The writer concluded that one could spend over $30.00 a month and get nothing in return for the money.
The writer concluded the minimum charge on a homeowner’s water bill was $2.10, even if you never turned on the faucet. The electric company charged $1.50 on each bill for bookkeeping purposes, even if your power was off. You pay for the privilege of having electricity in your house. There was a monthly $5.45 charge for sewer service, even if you never flush the toilet. The phone company billed each customer $8.25 a month even if they never made or received a call. The cable company charges $10.00 a month whether you turn the television on or not. All this could fall under the category of getting nothing for something.
Have you ever gone to church and wanted something for nothing? Do you enjoy the music, preaching, Bible study, childcare, ministry for your students and expect that it should be provided for you for nothing? Are you taking in and never giving out? Do you want the church to invest in your life while you refuse to invest your gifts, resources, and time in the church? That’s foolish.
A wise man, according to Proverbs, listens to counsel. Therefore, the person who goes to church, attends Bible conferences and yet never changes or grows, is foolish. A person who listens to the sermon but refuses to respond when the altar is open is foolish. The one who hears without doing is foolish. The foolish person is changing – but for the worse. The heart is becoming hard while the head is being puffed up with knowledge. You can know the Bible, and miss God. That’s foolish. The Scripture says, “They draw near to me with their words. They honor me with their lips. But their hearts are far removed from me.”
To know God, about God, and to not really know Him, is the ultimate foolishness. To settle for anything less than God’s best for your life is foolishness. Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. Why would His children want anything less than the best? The only answer is, we’re foolish.
It’s time for God’s children to listen to the counsel of the Word. It’s time for us to move on to maturity. There’s no secret or mystery to it. It comes through obedience to the Word of God and the will of God. The one who does so, is wise, mature, and blessed. The one who refuses, is a fool.
(copyright, Michael Catt)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.