Profile of a Fool--by Kimberly B. Southall

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Do you know a fool? Are you a fool yourself? Some erroneously believe it is wrong to identify a fool, particularly verbally. This belief usually stems from Matthew 5:22, in which Jesus instructed His followers, "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell." But one should carefully note that Jesus was speaking of those who call a brother a fool inanger. When one calls another a fool in anger, rather than in loving discipline, he sins. However, Jesus demonstrated more than once that one can call another a fool without sinning. Jesus did so Himself. He called the teachers of the law and the Pharisees blind fools (Matthew 23:17), He called the Pharisees foolish people (Luke 1:40), and He called Cleopas and one of His other followers foolish for being slow to believe what the prophets had spoken about His resurrection (Luke 24:25). Therefore, we learn that there is a proper time and place for recognizing a fool and voicing that conclusion.

Just how do we identify a fool? It should always be done in light of the scriptures. Surely, every person has made one or more foolish decisions, taken a foolish action, or failed to take a wise action in his life. Yet, this does not mean everyone is a fool. One secular definition of a fool is "a person lacking in judgment or prudence." It is important to note from the evidence in the scriptures, though, that this is a choice made by each person. Each person chooses whether or not to seek wisdom or whether to be a fool. Following are the biblical traits of a fool. A fool will probably not possess every single one of the following traits, but if he is truly a fool, he'll possess several of them.

A Fool's Character

With low or no morals, a fool's character is always lacking.

A fool is corrupt (Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1). He uses unjust means (Jeremiah 17:11) and deception (Proverbs 14:8). His deeds and ways are vile (Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1).

A fool is rebellious (Psalm 107:17). A fool practices ungodliness (Isaiah 32:6). He does not shun evil (Proverbs 14:16); a fool detests turning from evil (Proverbs 13:19). In fact, he finds pleasure in evil conduct (Proverbs 10:23)--so much so that his mind is busy with evil (Isaiah 32:6). A fool is skilled in doing evil and does not know how to do good (Jeremiah 4:22).

A Fool's Understanding

In a nutshell, a fool has no understanding or knowledge simply because he sees no value in either and chooses not to pursue understanding or knowledge.

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding (Proverbs 18:2). He is classified as a senseless child and has no understanding (Jeremiah 4:22). He is one who has eyes but does not see and ears but does not hear (Jeremiah 5:21). He does not give thought to his ways (Proverbs 14:8).

A fool does not keep wisdom in view (Proverbs 17:24), does not delight in wisdom (Proverbs 10:23), and does not walk with the wise (Proverbs 13:20). In fact, a fool despises wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). Wisdom is too high for him (Proverbs 24:7). Instead of walking in wisdom, he trusts in himself (Proverbs 28:26).

A fool has no knowledge on his lips (Proverbs 14:7), does not store up knowledge (Proverbs 10:14), does not seek knowledge (Proverbs 15:14), and does not commend knowledge (Proverbs 15:2). Not surprisingly, a fool hates knowledge (Proverbs 1:22).

A fool's way seems right to him; he does not listen to advice (Proverbs 12:15). He scorns the wisdom of another's words (Proverbs 23:9). He does not know how to take warning (Ecclesiastes 4:13). Even as he walks along the road, he lacks sense and shows everyone how foolish he is (Ecclesiastes 10:3).

A Fool's Behavior

A fool's behavior can be and often is quite shocking and reprehensible.

A fool's mouth never fails to get him into trouble. His speech has many words (Ecclesiastes 5:3); he multiplies words (Ecclesiastes 10:14). A fool's words are not gracious (Ecclesiastes 10:12), and his lips do not nourish others (Proverbs 10:21). His mouth invites ruin (Proverbs 10:14). He spreads slander (Proverbs 10:18). Even worse, he spreads error concerning the Lord (Isaiah 32:6).

A fool devours all he has rather than storing provisions (Proverbs 21:20). His eyes wander to the ends of the earth (Proverbs 17:24), and his heart is in the house of pleasure (Ecclesiastes 7:4).

A fool delights in airing his own opinions (Proverbs 18:2). His mouth feeds on folly (Proverbs 15:14). (One definition of folly is "lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight.") He speaks folly (Isaiah 32:6), his heart blurts out folly (Proverbs 12:23), and his mouth gushes folly (Proverbs 15:2). (That's a lot of folly!) A proverb in his mouth is like a lame man's legs that hang limp (Proverbs 26:7) or like a thornbush in a drunkard's hand (Proverbs 26:9).

Anger resides in the lap or bosom of a fool (Ecclesiastes 7:9). He does not overlook an insult (Proverbs 12:16) and does not avoid strife (Proverbs 20:3). He shows his annoyance at once (Proverbs 12:16) and gives full vent to his anger (Proverbs 29:11). He is quick tempered (Proverbs 14:17), hotheaded and reckless (Proverbs 14:16), and is quick to quarrel (Proverbs 20:3).

A fool exposes his folly (Proverbs 13:16). He repeats his folly as a dog returns to its vomit (Proverbs 26:11). And his folly yields more folly (Proverbs 14:24). His folly cannot be removed from him even if he were ground in a mortar with a pestle (Proverbs 27:22)!

A Fool's Relationship With Others

Any relationship with a fool certainly will be strained at best. Why?

A fool exalts himself (Proverbs 30:32), and he harbors resentment (Job 5:2). He neither accepts commands (Proverbs 10:8) nor heeds correction (Proverbs 15:5). In fact, he despises discipline (Proverbs 1:7). He leaves the hungry empty and withholds water from the thirsty (Isaiah 32:6).

Sadly, those closest to a fool suffer greatly. A fool despises and brings grief and bitterness to his mother (Proverbs 15:20; Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 17:25). And his father fares no better, either. He spurns his father's discipline (Proverbs 15:5). He eliminates joy for his father (Proverbs 17:21), and brings grief to his father (Proverbs 17:21, 25). In fact, he is his father's ruin (Proverbs 19:13). The companion of a fool suffers harm (Proverbs 13:20), for a fool tears her house down with her own hands (Proverbs 14:1).

Hiring a fool is like an archer who wounds at random (Proverbs 26:10). And sending a message by his hand is like cutting off one's feet or drinking violence (Proverbs 26:6). The earth trembles under a fool who is full of food (Proverbs 30:21-22).

There's no good way to deal with a fool. If you answer him according to his folly, you'll be like him yourself; if you don't answer him according to his folly, he'll be wise in his own eyes (Proverbs 26:4-5). In other words, when dealing with a fool, you can't win for losing. It's better to heed a wise man's rebuke than to listen to a fool's song (Ecclesiastes 7:5).

Provocation by a fool is heavier than both stone and sand (Proverbs 27:3). And when engaged in a controversy, he rages and scoffs and there is no peace (Proverbs 29:9).

If all of the above isn't scary enough to deter one from dealing with a fool, this ought to do it: It's better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly (Proverbs 17:12). Can you imagine coming face to face with an angry mother bear set on vengeance for her cubs? According to God's Word, a fool in his folly is worse!

A Fool's Relationship With God

A fool may think he has a relationship with God (on his own terms rather than on God's) or, alternatively, he completely rejects any notion of God.

A fool has a heart which inclines to the left (Ecclesiastes 10:2). "Right" and "left" often have symbolic significance in scripture--"right" is the better alternative or group, the better blessing, and is linked with divine power when God comes to the aid of His people (see Matthew 25:31-46 and Genesis 48:13-20).

A fool accepts good from God but not trouble (Job 2:10). He mocks at making amends for sin (Proverbs 14:9). He does not fear the Lord (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 14:16), and he does not put God's words into practice even if he hears them (Matthew 7:26). He does not keep the command God gave him (1 Samuel 13:13), and doesn't know the way of the Lord, the requirements of God (Jeremiah 5:4). He does not guard his steps when worshiping God and therefore does not know he does wrong when he makes a sacrifice (Ecclesiastes 5:1). He does not fulfill his vow to God and therefore God has no pleasure in him (Ecclesiastes 5:4).

A fool does not know the Lord (Jeremiah 4:22). He says in his heart, "There is no God" (Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1). He reviles God's name (Psalm 74:18) and mocks God all day long (Psalm 74:22).

In summary, a fool doesn't have a real relationship with God at all.

The Outcome of a Fool

The consequences of being a fool are anything but good.

A fool's lips bring him strife (Proverbs 18:6). He is held up to shame (Proverbs 3:35). He suffers affliction because of his iniquities (Psalm 107:17).

A fool's folly brings punishment (Proverbs 16:22). His talk brings a rod to his back (Proverbs 14:3), and his mouth invites a beating (Proverbs 18:6). Beatings and a rod are prepared for his back (Proverbs 19:29; Proverbs 26:3).

Since he has no desire to get wisdom, money is of no use in a fool's hand (Proverbs 17:16). It's not fitting for him to live in luxury (Proverbs 19:10). He gains riches by unjust means only to lose them and be proven a fool (Jeremiah 17:11). He will be servant to the wise (Proverbs 11:29).

A fool does not inherit honor (Proverbs 3:35). Honor is not fitting for him (Proverbs 26:1). In fact, giving honor to a fool is like tying a stone in a sling (Proverbs 26:8).

A fool's mouth is his undoing (Proverbs 18:7). He is consumed by his own lips (Ecclesiastes 10:12). He folds his hands and ruins himself (Ecclesiastes 4:5). His complacency will destroy him (Proverbs 1:32). (One definition of complacency is "self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.") He comes to ruin (Proverbs 10:8, 10).

A fool dies for lack of judgment (Proverbs 10:21). He dies before his time (Ecclesiastes 7:17). He perishes and leaves his wealth to others (Psalm 49:10; Luke 12:20).

A fool's lips are a snare to his soul (Proverbs 18:7). He does not understand that though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be forever destroyed (Psalm 92:6-7). He will not walk in the Way of Holiness (Isaiah 35:8), and he is unprepared for the Lord's return (Matthew 25:1-13).

Strife, shame, affliction, punishment, loss of wealth, loss of comfort, loss of position, loss of respect, ruin, physical death, and spiritual death . . . those are outcomes anyone should wish to avoid.

In Conclusion

Fools are bad news. They are a source of grief to themselves and everyone else around them. They leave a trail of heartache and destruction behind them. Do you exhibit any of the above traits of a fool? You don't have to. You have a choice. "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."(James 1:5) You can seek wisdom; you'll find it in God's Word.

Copyright © 2006 Kimberly B. Southall. All rights reserved.