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Thursday, April 14, 2011

The "over" and "under"

1 We no more give honors to fools than pray for snow in summer or rain during harvest. 
(Proverbs 26:1)

This chapter is full of advice about living around "fools", dealing with their "foolish behavior", or the unceasingly ill-effects of the "attitude of fools".  I thought it might be good to take a look at both the advice for dealing with a fool and their behavior, as well as considering the traits outlined within this chapter to see how many might actually be used to describe us once in a while.  These are by no means an "all-inclusive" list of the character traits of a fool, but they sure give us some insight!
  • Don't respond to the stupidity of a fool; you'll only look foolish yourself. (vs. 4) - the advice to "not respond" to a fool is simply based on the idea that most of their argument is really not based on fact.  The fool argues (presents his/her point) from a position of having a limited understanding of a circumstance.  We all know the danger of having "some" knowledge and staking everything we do on that "portion" of the puzzle.  It takes all the pieces to make a full picture!
  • Answer a fool in simple terms so he doesn't get a swelled head. (vs. 5) - a fool sees himself as wise in his own eyes, especially when a person "stoops" to his/her level.  In other words, we often spend a great deal of time trying to counteract the beliefs of the fool (their perception), but make no headway.  We need to be plain, direct, and simple in our responses, avoiding the tendency to get caught up in trying to convince the fool of the folly" of their beliefs.  
  • You're only asking for trouble when you send a message by a fool. A proverb quoted by fools is limp as a wet noodle. (vs. 6-7) - A fool cannot carry the message accurately because they lack the depth of knowledge that comes when we consider the entirety of facts, they are often too quick to respond without thinking things through, and they just don't possess credibility within their peer group.  Credibility is based on the past performance of a person - if we continually bring half-truths, frequently spout off without thinking things through, etc., our credibility is diminished in the eyes of our peers.
  • An employer who hires a fool or a bystander is like an archer who shoots at random. (vs. 10) - It is like shooting yourself in the foot, according to the Message translation.  A fool cannot stay on course - they are all over the map.  Today they have a commitment to one purpose, tomorrow they may be on to different things - there is a lack of consistency.  The target is difficult enough to hit when you are a skilled marksman, but shooting randomly, without thought or purpose, is totally worthless.  The haphazard approach to life is never the way to realize your goals.
  • As a dog eats its own vomit, so fools recycle silliness.  (vs. 11) - A fool just cannot recognize when somethings just need to be left alone!  This is a pretty graphic depiction of a fool's tendency to return to the same patterns, the same unproven beliefs, etc.  The fool just cannot let go of what they would be better walking away from!
By and far, this list is not all-inclusive.  I just outlined a few of the passages for us to consider.  The chapter is filled with various others warnings about what a fool is capable of doing, how much havoc they wreak in a situation, etc.  If Solomon, and God, thought so much about warning us against fools and foolish behavior, isn't it a good idea to explore it a little deeper?  The consistent theme:  Fools over-react, under-think, over-simplify, under-prepare, over-indulge, and under-recognize the impact of their words, behavior, and attitudes.  Theirs is a life of going way "over" and living way "under"!