Much of the wisdom of Proverbs comes to us in the form of warnings. The path of sin and self-destruction is the broad road that many take. To steer us along the narrow road of righteousness and life, the Bible often shows us the dangers of foolishness and its bad results. A lot of wisdom comes by recognizing foolishness in our lives as God’s Word reveals it to us and then repenting of it. So it is with today’s longer passage, which paints a biblical picture of what a fool looks likes. We are supposed to consider the attitudes and actions of the fool as they are described and ask God to show us if any of them are true of us.
Fools have no control over their emotions and words and then experience defeat by their wiser enemies (Proverbs 25:28). Fools cannot handle honor and fame; it goes right to their heads (26:1). Fools are ignored when they try to correct others because no one respects their authority (26:2). Fools do not respond to kind words of advice; they must be punished to obey (26:3-5). Fools cannot be trusted to deliver messages or wisdom to others because again, they will not be respected by the listeners (26:6-9). The character and conduct of fools is dishonorable and unstable, so people choose not to hear what fools have to say. Even if the fool’s words are true and good on occasion, his or her life speaks so loudly of sin and foolishness the rest of the time that people cannot hear whatever wisdom the fool might have to offer. Fools cannot be trusted as workers, either; assigning a task or job to a fool practically guarantees problems and failure (26:10). Fools never learn from their mistakes, but keep doing the same foolish things over and over (26:11). Finally, the worst of all fools, the kings and queens of fools, are those who never once realize that they are fools! They think that they already know everything and so are totally unteachable (26:12).
Wow…what a punch in the stomach! If you are like me, as you read these verses and thought about them, you realized that you have often been a fool in several ways. The portrait of the fool is a spiritual “selfie” for each of us. And that is a good thing. The Bible includes passages like these to show us our sin so that we might turn from it and look to Jesus and be healed. That’s part of the process of spiritual growth and sanctification (being made more holy) that we experience as Christians. As the branches of the Vine (Jesus), we are pruned by God so that we might bear more fruit for Him (check out John 15:1-8 for the full analogy). Having our sin revealed to us hurts, but it is a major tool for our growth and it shows that we do indeed belong to Christ. Fools aren’t growing in Christ because they cannot admit their sin to God and themselves. Wise people, however, acknowledge their sins and confess them to God. They then experience God’s forgiveness and grace as they grow to be more like Jesus from the inside out. Decide today to be wise in God’s eyes, not your own, and let God paint a portrait of your life that is like His own Son.
The Text (Proverbs 25:28-26:12)
25:28 Whoever has no rule over his own spirit Is like a city broken down, without walls.
26:1 As snow in summer and rain in harvest, So honor is not fitting for a fool.
2 Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, So a curse without cause shall not alight.
3 A whip for the horse, A bridle for the donkey, And a rod for the fool’s back.
4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.
6 He who sends a message by the hand of a fool Cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.
7 Like the legs of the lame that hang limp Is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
8 Like one who binds a stone in a sling Is he who gives honor to a fool.
9 Like a thorn that goes into the hand of a drunkard Is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
10 The great God who formed everything Gives the fool his hire and the transgressor his wages.
11 As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly.
12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Questions to Think About
- Which parts of this “portrait of a fool” most resemble you today? In other words, how is today’s passage a spiritual “selfie” for you right now?
- As Christians, why is it important to remember the love and mercy and grace of Christ toward us whenever we read Bible passages like today’s text from Proverbs?