By Dr. Michael L. Brown
As defined by the Scriptures, a fool is not someone who is uneducated or a person with a low IQ. Rather, a fool is someone who is deeply deficient spiritually and morally. As summed up in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Are you a fool according to the Bible? Am I? Let’s look at just a few of the characteristics of the fool as laid out in Proverbs.
1) “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice” (Proverbs 12:15).
The fool is always right in his (or her eyes), never willing to take correction, never willing to listen to sound advice, never willing to acknowledge error or wrong.
Perhaps we are not this extreme in our stubbornness, but is this our general tendency? Can people approach us easily, without fear? Do we receive correction with humility and even appreciation?
That’s why Proverbs 9:8 says, “Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.” So also Proverbs 17:10: “A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes a fool.”
Are you foolish or are you wise?
2) “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult” (Proverbs 12:16).
Fools lack self-control. They are easily annoyed, easily angered, easily provoked. In contrast, those who are prudent will overlook insult and shaming. Which attitude would your friends and family and co-workers say is more characteristic of you?
According to Proverbs, lack of self-control is one of the most common characteristics of a fool. “The wise fear the LORD and shun evil, but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure. A quick-tempered person does foolish things, and the one who devises evil schemes is hated” (Proverbs 14:16-17).
And, “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end” (Proverbs 29:11).
Are you known as a hothead? Does everyone around you know immediately when you are annoyed? Do you find it hard to overlook an insult?
On a scale of 1-10, if 1 stood for “wise” and 10 stood for “foolish,” how would you score yourself? And how would those closest to you score you?
To quote one more relevant verse (among many), “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly” (Proverbs 14:29.)
What are we displaying by our lives and our words?
3) “The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly” (Proverbs 15:2).
Because a foolish person lacks humility and self-control, he or she is quick to speak, blurting out whatever comes to mind. As Proverbs 14:3 states, “A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.”
In fact, throughout the Bible, few things are so characteristic of fools as this: They have no filter on their lips. They think something and they speak. They do not exercise self-restraint.
Just read these verses for yourself, and see if they are relevant in your own life. I have looked at my life through this grid many times and plan to continue do so while I have breath. “The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating. The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives” (Proverbs 18:6-7). “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).
According to Proverbs 12:18, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Do our words bring healing or do they tear down and destroy? Is our speech restrained, bringing life, or is our speech reckless, piercing like a sword?
4) “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2).
Proverbs is quite blunt about this: “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13). And, “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them” (Proverbs 26:12). And, “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them” (Proverbs 29:20).
Often on social media, when posting my latest article for discussion, I will add, “Please read the article before sharing your thoughts on the article.”
Yes, I actually have to do this, as ridiculous as it sounds.
Just think of telling a music critic, “Please listen to the song before you share your thoughts on the song.” Or, think of telling a food critic, “Please eat the meal before describing how it tastes.”
Unfortunately, despite my appeal, it is very common for people simply to see a headline and then air their opinion. More times than not, had they actually read the article first, they would not have posted their comment.
That’s why, after seeing all kinds of passionate (but irrelevant and even misguided) discussion in response to one of my recent articles, I posted this, “I have this crazy dream that one day everyone will read the article before they post their comments in response to the article! It would really save a whole lot of wasted words. But I’m probably just dreaming. Many will still air their opinions before reading the content of what I write. I guess I just have to accept it.”
When we do this, when we answer before listening, when we speak before we understand, we display the characteristics of a fool.
The other day, a woman rebuked me on Facebook for criticizing those who still expected Trump to be the president, while, she claimed, I failed ever to say a word against the policies of Joe Biden or other Democrats.
I asked in reply, “Have you not read my articles addressing Democratic policies on abortion and religious freedom and transgender activism and China and Iran?”
She replied, “I haven’t read your stuff for years. I’m unfollowing you now.”
This is all too common in our day, and when we act like this, we are shouting out for the world to see, “I am acting like a fool!”
How about we read a chapter of Proverbs each day, which basically takes you through the book 12 times in a year?
Recognizing my own lack of wisdom over the years, and having a terrible, fierce temper when I came to faith in 1971, I’ve read through Proverbs countless times, also asking God for wisdom again and again. That’s a prayer He loves to answer.
If this article made you angry, or if you posted a comment before you read it, or if you’re about to blast me for virtue signaling by quoting so much of the Bible, perhaps you’d do better to look in the mirror first.
Are you foolish, or are you wise?
Dr. Michael L. Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Evangelicals at the Crossroads: Will We Pass the Trump Test? Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter, or YouTube.