There used to be a show in which people would eat all kinds of disgusting things. But this has got to be the worst.
“As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11)
I’m sure the dog has a very good reason for returning to his vomit. But we don’t know what it is. From our perspective, that is one of the most disgusting things that a creature could do. But we’ve all fallen into the same folly. When you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten.
The book of proverbs is full of warnings against being foolish. But this chapter contains the most eloquent description of fools found in the whole book. Several consecutive verses illustrate how a fool acts, and how we should treat them (v. 3-11)
“A whip for the horse, a halter for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools!” (v. 3)
Should we go around beating up foolish people? Maybe we want to…but of course not. It is merely comparing them with horses and donkeys. Such animals can be tamed, and we should correct the foolish one.
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.” (v. 4-5)
Which is it? Do we answer fools or not answer them? It depends. We must be wise in how we respond to them.
“Like cutting off one’s feet or drinking violence is the sending of a message by the hand of a fool. Like a lame man’s legs that hang limp 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.” (v. 6-9)
Fools cannot be trusted.
“Like an archer who wounds at random is he who hires a fool or any passer-by.” (v. 10)
Wait a minute. Who’s being rebuked in this verse? Not the foolish person, but the person who hires a fool. This is the first indication that this passage isn’t really about the foolish person. All of these comparisons concerning fools are merely a lead up to what the passage is really warning against.
“Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (v. 12)
As verse 3 implied, at least a fool might be corrected with a sharp rebuke. There is hope for the fool, but there is little hope for the person who places himself on a peddle stool and is wise in his own eyes. The sin of pride is perhaps the greatest hindrance to gaining true wisdom.
The Biblical definition of a fool is found in Psalm 14:1.
“The fool says in his heart, There is no God…”
Anyone who does not believe that there is a God is a fool according to the Bible. But the book of Proverbs uses its own self contained definition of a fool, and it is found in Proverbs 10:23.
“A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct…”
A fool is a type of unbeliever who enjoys doing evil. Another proverb names another lifestyle worse than being a fool: Proverbs 29:3.
“Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
Using this Proverbs definition of a fool, we can understand how Proverbs 26:12 is true. Although he does not know God, he is changeable. He may repent and come to know God. But the person wise in his own eyes has built a wall for himself, and may never come to know God.
None of us want to fall into the category of being worse than a fool. But we all have, haven’t we?
I don’t know who said it first, but there’s a quote that goes, “There’s so much good in the worst of us, and there’s so much bad in the best of us, that it hardly behooves any of us that we should say a word about the rest of us.”
We can look down on those we deem to be foolish, but we have all been worse than fools, and we constantly slip up in these areas. But if we remember that we are who we are only by the grace of God, then we will help others to find this grace as well.
Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009. He and his wife, Abby, have four children. Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)