the end of a fool

November 18, 2016

Image result for a picture of a dead fool

The Causes of Folly

I believe it is possible to reduce the causes of folly to two principle choices: the decision to distrust God and the decision to trust in one’s own heart.

First, the fool is one who has willfully determined not to follow the way of wisdom. Although wisdom has sought him out, he has refused and rejected her.

Because I called, and you refused; I stretched out my hand, and no one paid attention; And you neglected all my counsel, And did not want my reproof; . . . Because they hated knowledge, And did not choose the fear of the Lord (1:20-25,29).

The fool is not neutral toward wisdom, he hates it, and he loves the evil of his way (cf. 10:23;13:19; 29:27).

Second, one becomes a fool by trusting in himself. If one will not trust in God (1:7,29), he must trust in himself. Proverbs tells us that the fool is self-confident, trusting in his own wisdom, rather than in God and the counsel of those who are wise.

The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel (12:15).

To the fool, no one is more trustworthy, wise, or reliable than himself. He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered (28:26).

Realizing the tendency of the fool to trust in himself enriches our understanding of one of the most familiar passages in the Book of Proverbs:

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 make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil (3:5-7).

The fool, trusting in his own understanding, rejects the fear of the Lord, and chooses to walk in the way of evil.

This decision to trust in self results in arrogance (21:24) and in a rejection of all authority, including that of one’s parents (15:5; 10:8). The fool is characterized by complacency (1:32).After all, who needs instruction, if he knows it all? Who needs correction who is never wrong? Who needs improvement, who has already arrived at wisdom and maturity? As a result, the fool has an autonomous spirit, and is reckless in his living (14:16).

How to Treat a Fool

Now that we have seen the characteristics of a fool and have learned the root causes of his folly, we must direct our attention to the treatment of a fool. Proverbs has a good deal to say on this subject, and nearly all of its instruction pertains to what we should not do. Our actions with regard to fools are often more negative than positive.

  1. WE SHOULD AVOID THE FOOL IF AT ALL POSSIBLE. While wisdom is not contagious to a fool, folly is to the wise; therefore, the wise man should avoid the fool.

Leave the presence of a fool, Or you will not discern words of knowledge (14:7).

In addition, the fool is dangerous and harmful, and we should avoid him like a bear robbed of her cubs (17:12).

  1. THE FOOL SHOULD BE DRIVEN OUT. In those cases where we cannot leave the fool, the fool may need to be sent away.

Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, Even strife and dishonor will cease (22:10).

The New Testament teaches that Christians should not fellowship with professing Christians who are living in sin (I Cor. 5:9-13). The church is instructed to put out those who disregard biblical rebuke and correction (Matt. 18:15-17; I Cor. 5:5). The words of Paul to Titus seem closely related to the teaching of Proverbs that we should avoid the fool:

Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned (Titus 3:10-11).

  1. WE SHOULD NOT WASTE OUR INSTRUCTION ON FOOLS. In the New Testament Jesus taught that we should not “cast our pearls before swine” (Matt. 7:6). In Proverbs, we are told not to attempt to teach fools:

Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words (23:9).

  1. WE SHOULD NOT ALLOW THE FOOL TO DRAG US DOWN TO HIS LEVEL. The fool is exasperating; he is looking for trouble, and he often tempts us to oblige him. Since the fool will spout off and speak his mind, we are tempted to lose our temper with him as well. Proverbs instructs us not to allow him to get the best of us, lest we be lowered to his level.

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you be like him (26:4).

  1. WE SHOULD NOT DIGNIFY A FOOL BY GIVING HIM UNDUE HONOR, SO THAT HE WILL-BE FLATTERED AND PUFFED UP EVEN FURTHER. The fool is pompous and proud, and he will take any positive strokes as a compliment. We should avoid giving him any honor.

Like snow in summer and rain in harvest, So honor is not fitting for a fool (26:1).

Answer a fool as his folly deserves, Lest he be wise in his own eyes (26:5).

  1. WE SHOULD NOT ATTEMPT TO CORRECT THE FOOL, FOR IN SO DOING WE WILL ONLY PUNISH OURSELVES. The fool is never open to rebuke or correction. Any effort to correct a fool by mere verbal rebuke is futile.

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you, Reprove a wise man, and he will love you (9:7-8).

When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, The foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest (29:9).

  1. WE SHOULD NOT MAKE LIFE EASY FOR THE FOOL. While verbal rebuke is not effective with fools, we should not seek to cushion the painful effects of their folly. The “way of the transgressor is hard” (13:15) and so the folly of a fool will bring about many difficulties. These painful consequences of sin may be instrumental in bringing the fool to the end of his folly, but regardless, the painful blows of sin should not be softened.

In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back, But the lips of the wise will preserve them (14:3).

A fool’s lips bring strife, And his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, And his lips are the snare of his soul (18:6-7).

Luxury is not fitting for a fool; Much less for a slave to rule over princes (19:10).

The prodigal son did not come to his senses until he was allowed to suffer the consequences of his folly (Luke 15:11-14).We must not hinder fools from entering the pig pens of life, for it is there that they may come to recognize their folly.

  1. FOOLS SHOULD BE SEVERELY DISCIPLINED. Fools do not learn from a lecture, but they cannot ignore physical pain. The only method of discipline for the fool is “the rod.”

A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, And a rod for the back of fools (26:3).

The fool may not learn even though he is severely disciplined, but others may learn a lesson by seeing the outcome of folly.

Strike a scoffer and the naive may become shrewd, But reprove one who has understanding and he will gain knowledge (19:25; cf. 21:11).

The preceding principles governing our treatment may incline us to draw the wrong conclusion. Are fools utterly hopeless? Should we not make any effort to turn them from their folly? What are the implications of Proverbs for evangelism? Since, in one sense, all unbelievers are fools because they have rejected the fear of the Lord, should we do nothing to win them to Christ? The answer to these questions is also found in Proverbs.

The point which Proverbs is stressing is that the fool cannot be reasoned from his folly, cannot be shamed from it, and likely cannot even be beaten from it (cf. 27:22).This should not, however, lead us to the conclusion that the fool is utterly hopeless and helpless. Everyone who does not know Christ is hopelessly lost apart from divine intervention. The reason why Proverbs teaches us not to try to reform a fool is that he must be transformed. The fool’s problem is one of the heart (3:5; 4:23).

Proverbs reminds us that if we would help deliver a fool from his folly he must be saved from his sin. Rather than working on the symptoms of folly, we must deal with the heart of the matter. Notice that in Proverbs wisdom offers herself to all men; and specifically the fool is urged to turn from his folly.

“How long, 0 naive ones, will you love simplicity? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, And fools hate knowledge? Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you (1:22-24).

“Come, eat of my food, And drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake your folly and live, And proceed in the way of understanding” (9:5-6).

The solution for the fool is to turn from his folly, from trusting in himself, to fearing God. If we would help the fool it is by proclaiming to him the way of salvation, not trying to inform him (by teaching) or reform him (by rebuke and correction). It is only the gospel which transforms men through the power of the shed blood of Jesus Christ.


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