Becoming a Fool

Proverbs 1:7
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom
and discipline.


Marvin Wilson, author of Our Father Abraham, has written incisively
about the various meanings for our word fool:

In Biblical wisdom literature, the pupils of the sages and mentors
are the unwise, often termed “fools” (Prov. 1:7) or “simple one” (1:22). In
wisdom literature, the different levels of fools-both young and old-are the
raw material on which the sages had to work, and they represent the varying
degrees of rawness. Perhaps as much as anything else, the term fool is
descriptive of an attitude, bent of mind, or direction in life, which needs
correcting. The various Hebrew words for fool occur more than a hundred
times in the book of Proverbs. [Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham (Grand
Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 284-286.]

The reference to someone being a fool was not necessarily a negative
term. A simple fool, or peti, was a person who made mistakes but quickly
righted them and was restored to fellowship with God and with others. King
David was a simple fool, one who made mistakes, but kept a repentant heart
toward God. This is why God did not turn away from him for his many sins.

The hardened fool, kesil and ewil, makes mistakes, but never learns
from them and will not listen to others. Such people can expect God's
reproof to continue and will eat the fruit of their own way (see Prov.
1:31-32). The hardened fool “returns to his own vomit.” King Saul was a
hardened fool, one who made mistakes and continued in them even after
realizing he was wrong. We're going to err in our ways. The question is,
once we know we have made a mistake before God, do we make the necessary
adjustments that will allow Him to intervene on our behalf? And will we
avoid the same course of action in the future? God says that if we do, He
will pour out His Spirit on us (see Prov. 1:23). He will make known His
words to us.

The third level of fool mentioned in Proverbs is the mocking fool or
letz. The mocking fool mocks the things of God. This word means “scoffer” or
“scorner.” When you encounter cynical people who disregard the things of
God, you know these people are “mocking fools.”

The fourth level of fool is the God-denying fool or nabal. This term
relates to the morally wicked person who ignores the disgrace he brings on
his family and who despises holiness (see Prov. 17:21). This person says,
“There is no God.” By failing to acknowledge God for who He is, the nabal
declares himself to be a “God-denying” fool.

I have found that it is helpful to try to understand if people are
teachable. Are they simple fools, those who make mistakes but seek to learn
from them? I can work with those people. But if I sense I am working with a
hardened fool, I know I should not spend much time on that person. Jesus did
not spend much time trying to convince the rich young ruler. He presented
truth, and let him make his decision. Some people must get broken before
they can become simple fools. Sometimes it is simply better to let satan
chew on people until the ground is fertile enough to present truth to
them.

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