There are probably not too many of us who would admit to playing the part of "fool" once in a while. In fact, we'd do our best to refute anyone who called us a fool, defending our honor to the end. A fool is merely anyone who lacks judgment or good sense. Now, if we were to be truthfully (yes, painfully honest) most of us could definitely cop to this plea! We are not consistently wise in our judgment, nor do we always use good sense! A fool in scripture is someone who does this habitually - but in everyday life, we all play the fool on occasion. The issue with the fool - they just don't embrace wisdom, so they keep using "faulty" judgment over and over again. I think there are probably areas in our lives where we do the same thing - try as we might, knowing what we know to be true, we ignore good judgment and just plunge headlong into whatever it is we are involved in. In those moments, we are neither using our good sense (common sense), nor are we listening to the still small voice of God reminding us of the error in our judgment. This is indeed "foolish".
Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, honor is not fitting for a fool. Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest. A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools! Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. Sending a message by the hands of a fool is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison. Like the useless legs of one who is lame is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. Like tying a stone in a sling is the giving of honor to a fool. Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by. As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. (Proverbs 26:1-11 MSG)
Our passage is long, but I think we might benefit from looking at some of the characteristics of the fool - the way he/she interacts with life. When we begin to see these "interaction moments" in the way God sees them, we might just become a little more sensitive to when those "moments" creep up in our lives and work to be a little less inclined to respond as the fool!
- The fool looks for honor. Whenever we find ourselves actually seeking some form of honor from others for a task we have completed, or perhaps something we have finally stopped doing, we are looking in the wrong place. Honor is really best understood as feeling God's satisfaction with our decisions - like a settled sense of peace in our lives. All the praise and accolades of man will never replace this deep sense of peace God provides. All other honor is just for show!
- The fool takes to heart words which are spoken. As a child of God, let me tell you that not every word spoken into your life, nor against your life needs to be embraced. A fool will embrace them all - taking many as "curses" or what may consider to be "slights" which are against him/her. Let me just say this - most people don't have good control over their words - me included! When we speak, it is often without "deep thought" or "careful consideration". To embrace everything someone says is silly - there are things they say in the moment which they really never intended to come across the way it did - we need to let those go!
- The fool has a problem accepting leadership over his life. Now, this one is a tough one for most people. We ALL want to be in control of our lives, but the one who plays the part of the fool will resist even God's control. Bridles and big sticks are not the most pleasant way to direct one toward obedience, but the fool needs this kind of "intervention" in his life because there is a lack of submission to God's authority. Perhaps there is "lip service" to God's authority, but as the child once said, "I may be sitting down on the outside, but I am standing up on the inside"!
- The fool looks to be affirmed in his actions. When we answer a fool with equally "foolish" responses, we are slipping right into the same "folly" of a fool. In other words, rash responses are really the "trend" or "norm" for the fool. God's way of "doing business" with the fool is to break the "norm" - to be a little slower to answer than we might desire, but pretty doggone hitting the nail on the head each and every time. The fool has a hard time with this because he is impulsive - lacking in discretion and prudence. Trust me on this one - we need discretion in our lives - especially where it applies to our words and thoughts which lead to actions! Not all our word, nor our actions, are deserving of affirmation. In fact, some of them really would be best responded to with a firm bit of chastisement!
- The fool may have access to wisdom, but he seldom knows the truth behind what he possesses. This is probably why it is so important we get into scripture ourselves and figure out what God's Word actually has to say. The fool will accept at face value anything which resembles truth, but this is dangerous in face of his/her lack of discretion and prudence. Nothing can be believed if there is not at least an element of truth in it - so to rise above being deceived, we have to develop an awareness of truth. In other words, we have a relationship with truth! The deeper our relationship is with Jesus, the more we are likely to desire truth in our lives.
- The fool is given to repeating mistakes. This is closely related to the fools inability or unwillingness to be under authority, to learn truth, and to allow his thoughts to be "filtered" by the Word. The fool just follows after his folly - his indiscretions are many, often the same ones repeated time and again. What becomes the "norm" for the fool is really a series of bad judgments leading to bad actions, followed closely by bad "justifications" about why he/she pursued that course of action in the first place. If we find ourselves in the cycle of repeating past failures time and time again, we might just want to take a step back and ask God to show us if this is related to any of the above characteristics of the fool! Just sayin!