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The Fool in the Bible
A Life Lived Apart from God
Many of us, when we think of the word fool today, we think of one who is silly or stupid. We would say they lacked common sense. However, a fool, in the biblical understanding of the term, is not necessarily one who is intellectually deficient. He doesn't lack mental capacity. He simply misuses it. According to Unger's Bible Dictionary: "A fool is a person who casts off the fear of God, and acts as if he could safely disregard the eternal principles of God's righteousness." In other words he lives as though there is no God.
The Hebrew term for fool appears primarily in the biblical wisdom literature and it is used of one who hates wisdom and walks in folly, despising morality. God has clearly outlined how we are to live in Scripture but the fool is one who has no fear of God and thinks he can live apart from His Word. There are several characteristics which the Bible gives us to identify this person, and also to see if we might fit into that category as well. They are as follows:
I. He is Unrighteous
There are two verses in the Old Testament that are practically identical. They are Psalms 14:1 and 53:1. These verses both say that: "The fool says in his heart ' there is no God.' " And because of this they are unrighteous. "They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no-one who does good." The fool literally hates what is holy, righteous and good. And they love what is evil. Psalm 13:19 says that: "The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul: but it is an abomination to fools to depart from evil." Doing evil is like a sport to a foolish person and they make fun of sin (Proverbs 10:23 and 14:9).
II. He Trusts in Himself
Proverbs 3:5,6 says to: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." A foolish person totally ignores these commands and leans completely on his own understanding. He thinks he can do no wrong and trusts in his own heart (Proverbs 12:15 and 28:26).
III. He will not Listen to Instruction
There is an old song made famous by Frank Sinatra and was even done later by Elvis Presley. It is entitled My Way. It is about a man who is looking back on his life and is proud that he was able to live it just as he wanted to live and not the way someone else wanted him to do it. "I did it my way" is heard over and over again. Well this is the anthem of the fool. He will not listen to what anyone else has to say on how to live. He won't even listen to God. A fool thinks that he knows everything. He despises wisdom and instruction. And he won't even listen to his own father (Proverbs 18:13; 1:7 and 15:5).
IV. He is Impulsive
By impulsive is meant that he acts rashly and without thought. Scripture says that he is one that vents his feelings and his wrath is soon known (Proverbs 29:11 and 12:16). The Bible teaches us that we are to be slow to anger. But the fool seems to have a short fuse. This makes his folly even worse (Proverbs 14:29).
V. He Refuses Correction
While the wise receive discipline and correction and turn toward the right path, the fool refuses discipline. Once again, it isn't because he is stupid and doesn't get what is trying to be taught. He is arrogant and hates to be disciplined (Proverbs 17:10 and 12:1). The Bible goes as far as to say that even trying to share wisdom with him is folly itself (Proverbs 16:22). As we stated earlier, he considers it an abomination to depart from evil, so the foolish person is virtually unchangeable. Proverbs uses a vivid picture here to tell us this: "Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him" (27:22). It gives another unpleasant and vivid picture of this fact in the chapter before: "Like a dog returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly" (26:11).
Unfortunately, as we consider the biblical definition of a fool, we see that there are lots of them in the world. They live apart from God and His wisdom and try to live life their own way. We must not allow ourselves to be pulled into their folly, because we know that ultimately their end is destruction. And we must acknowledge God in all of our ways, knowing that His way is best. May we all, as we come to the end of life's journey, declare as our anthem: "I did it His way!" For wisdom comes from the Lord.