Everybody’s played the fool at some point. That means that once in a while, we’re going to say and do things that aren’t very well informed. But that’s supposed to be the exception not the norm right? Unfortunately, human depravity can quickly turn foolish behavior into foolish habits that do a lot of damage.
The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of foolishness. More specifically, the book of Proverbs gives us time-tested truth about what a fool looks and sounds like. We would do well to spend more time learning from Solomon because as the old saying goes, “You must learn from the mistakes of others because you can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”
Grab your Bible, turn to Proverbs, and let’s look at 7 Habits of a Fool.
- A Fool is Arrogantly Unteachable (1:7; 12:1; 12:15; 13:1 26:12; 28:26)
Only a fool thinks he is always right. He constantly considers himself above the wisdom and instruction of others. There’s a hardened pride that takes over a person who refuses to listen to wise counsel, and by this the fool shows that he does not fear the Lord. Whatever you do, don’t be this person, don’t hire this person, don’t marry this person, and don’t do business with this person. Pray for this person.
- A Fool Goes Looking for Trouble (1:10-19; All of chapter 7)
My mother used to make me memorize Proverbs 1:10-19 when I would hang out with the wrong people at the wrong time. Times may have changed, but the Proverb still provides wisdom from parents to youngsters. But adults can learn too. All of Proverbs chapter 7 tells an all-too-familiar story about a man looking for adulterous sex, and a woman looking for just such a man. These two find exactly what they’re looking for and are fraught with consequences.
- A Fool Can’t Control His Mouth (10:14; 10:31-32; 13:3; 18:7-8; 18:13; 26:21; 29:20)
Is there anything more deadly that the human tongue? Nothing sets off a war of words quicker than a person who hurls insults. Verbal abuse, assault, murder, low self esteem, suicide, adultery, and divorce have something in common – vicious words that fatally pierce the heart of another. There might be no more an important lesson to learn than this one. May we all do better at controlling our mouths.
- A Fool Can’t Control His Temper (14:17; 19:3-4; 19:19; 21:7;25:28; 29:11)
This could easily go hand in hand with #3 but it still deserves its own rank in the list. Though hardly a theologian, it’s difficult to contend with Robert Frost when he said, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self-confidence.”If education of oneself is some indication of learning to control emotions, this perfectly illustrates the fool’s ignorance and insecurity. When tensions rise and emotions boil over, the fool would do well to heed the advice of Martin Lloyd-Jones’ to preachers when he says, “Nothing is more important than that a man should get to know himself. I include that he should get to know himself physically as well as temperamentally and in other respects.” Slow down, learn what triggers you and why, then get help and educate yourself on how to handle emotions in a way that honors God.
- A Fool Refuses to Discipline His Children (13:18; 13:24; 19:18; 23:13-14; 29:15)
Some parents use a “switch” or wooden spoon, others use incentives, still others take away privileges and toys. There is one thing in common with all of these methods and it is that there are serious consequences for disobedient behavior – period. A person who does not have a structure of discipline in place in the home is playing with fire and playing the fool. Not to mention, raising one.
- A Fool Blows Paychecks to Party (20:1; 21:17; 23:20-21; 23:30-35; 31:3-5)
We can all relate to this either from personal experience or from someone close to us. A fool doesn’t plan for the future and spends most of his time thinking of instant gratification. How can I feel good now? Proverbs 31:3-5 provides specific instructions to leaders who do not practice some level of sobriety. No wonder employees loathe working for a lush. Hollywood movies may make it look fun and endearing, but the life of the party will drain your paycheck, and lead you to poverty one way or another.
- A Fool Never Learns His Lesson (26:7-9; 26:11; 27:22; 29:1)
I’ll let Spurgeon take this one home. He says: “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.” There’s a very specific reason that Proverbs 26:11 compares a fool to a dog returning to it’s own vomit. It’s meant to paint the repulsive picture of our own lives when we do not learn from our mistakes.
Ultimately, even though the Proverbs speaks to many practical issues of life, it is not merely secular, prudential wisdom. Instead, all of wisdom is grounded in one’s relationship with God. Naturally, reverence and relationship are a good place to start.
So ask yourself, how often have you been playing the fool? Are you ready to increase your reverence for God, and be more intentional about cultivating your relationship with God.
There hopefully comes a time in every person’s life when this Proverbial truth hits home. Thankfully, God’s grace is sufficient for your weakness, and you can always draw from the timeless practicality of the Proverbs.
In the next post, we’ll look at 7 Habits of the Wise.