Don’t Be A Fool

When I hear the word fool, I can’t help but picture Mr. T with mohawk, gold chains, and a cut-off T-shirt saying, “I pity the fool!” Whether or not you watched the A-Team, the truth is, we all can play the fool from time to time. So it is good that God’s Word gave us an entire book to warn against folly and encourage us toward godly wisdom. In the book of Proverbs, King Solomon lovingly pleads with his teenage son to walk in the way of wisdom. One of the best ways to guide us toward wisdom is to expose folly. Solomon describes the fool (or simple), the sluggard, the scoffer, and the wicked (or sinner) in similar ways: those whose life choices are governed more by self than the Lord and others. So when are we acting a fool according to God’s Word, and how can we turn from it? 

  1. We’re being fools when we resist negative criticism and always assume we’re right (Proverbs 1:7; 5:12-13; 9:7-9; 10:1, 17; 12:1, 15, 16; 15:5, 20; 17:10, 21, 25; 18:2; 19:13; 26:5, 12; 29:9)   

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid” (12:1).

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (12:15).

  1. We’re being fools when we ignore the clear warnings of God’s Word and other Christians (Proverbs 7:7ff; 10:23; 14:16; 15:21; 22:3)

One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless” (14:16).

The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (22:3).

  1. We’re being fools when we are careless with our words (Proverbs 10:13-14, 19; 13:16; 14:3, 7; 15:2, 7, 14; 18:2, 6-7)

Whoever restrains his lips has knowledge…even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent…a fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (17:27a, 28, 18:2).

A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul” (18:6-7).

  1. We’re being fools when we are easily annoyed (Proverbs 14:29; 17:27; 19:11; 20:3; 29:11)

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (14:29).

He who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding” (17:27b).

A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back” (29:11). 

  1. We’re being fools when we return to our folly and don’t learn from it (Proverbs 26:11; 27:22)

Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (26:11).

Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him” (27:22).

How can we avoid being fools? 

Keep the Gospel front and center

The Bible is pretty clear that becoming occurs through beholding. Paul writes to the church at Corinth, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). There is nothing that will keep you humble and gracious like reflecting on Calvary. When you’re presently aware you’ve been given marvelous and unfathomable grace by the God who should have judged you, suddenly it is okay when others think you’re in the wrong. Years ago a prominent Christian man was being interviewed by a liberal news media reporter. The reporter criticized him for his biblical views and the Christian simply said, “Well, I’m a much more horrible person than even you think, but my hope is in the Gospel.” This remark surprised the reporter, who quickly shifted gears in the conversation. When we’re aware of the ugliness of our sins and keep holding ourselves up against the backdrop of God’s holiness, we’re able to more readily own our faults and repent of them. Our failure to behold the Great Exchange by our Great Substitute is why we play the fool.

Be diligent with the means of grace

James described God’s law as a mirror, so we must daily let Scripture show us our faults and help us look away from ourselves and look to Christ’s righteousness for us. Also, the more we pray, the more we’ll avoid folly. Struggle with your words? Pray with David, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). Keep ignoring God’s warnings? Pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). Also by maintaining corporate worship and close, open-hearted fellowship with our church family, we open ourselves up to more of God’s leading in our lives and are better able to avoid folly, or at least turn from it before we go too far into it.   

Live Coram Deo

Those who loved R.C. Sproul will know this phrase as he often repeated it. Coram Deo means, “before the face of God.” We live all of life before God’s presence, but we often don’t live like it! This is what David meant when he wrote, “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good” (Psalm 14:1a). David was primarily warning against practical atheism. Christians can sometimes be practical atheists, denying by their lifestyle the doctrines they claim to believe. Brother Andrew was famous for saying we must, “Practice the presence of God.” In our fallen state, humans do not do this naturally. Even as believers, we live outside the garden, so we must constantly remind our hearts that, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). 

Repent and believe…rinse and repeat!

The first of Martin Luther’s famous 95 Theses that sparked the Protestant Reformation was, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” I think Luther would probably say the entire life of believers should be one of faith as well. We don’t merely repent and believe at the start of our Christian life, but everyday we live as Christians. As we turn from our old manner of life and turn toward the Gospel and God’s will for our lives, we are then able to avoid folly and walk in wisdom. So let’s keep on repenting and keep on believing until our faith becomes sight.

May we all examine our hearts for folly and strive after the wisdom that pleases our great God.

“Where There is No Vision…”

This past week I heard a quote I’d never heard before.  “Where there is no vision the people perish.”  Don’t think me foolish to have never heard this before.  I don’t read the KJV and didn’t grow up in a Southern Baptist church (where this and many other sayings are so prominent).  After hearing this statement for the first time it sounded a bit strange to me, so I went looking for it and found a great post explaining the misuse and abuse of this verse in Proverbs.  It was helpful to me, here it is below for you.

Tim Challies:

One of my greatest passions in life is for history. When I was young I was more likely to be seen reading non-fiction than fiction, and it was natural that when it came time for post-secondary education, I elected to take history as my major. One aspect of history I particularly enjoyed was examining historical figures whom we tend to vilify to see if the reality matches our perception. Often I would find myself attempting to vindicate a particular historical figure who has been given unfair treatment in history. These days I find myself doing the same with Bible passages. There are multitudes of passages in Scripture that we use in a sense that, when given proper examination, is completely foreign to the true meaning of the passage. Today I will turn to one of these.

Proverbs 29:18 is a verse that many Christians have latched onto, claiming that it provides biblical basis for the importance of vision in leadership. This passage is used, most notably, by leaders within the church growth movement. Consider this brief sampling of the usage of this verse:

MY IMAGINATION INFLUENCES MY ASPIRATION. In other words, your dreams determine your destiny. To accomplish anything you must first have a mission, a goal, a hope, a vision. “Without a vision the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18.
-Rick Warren (link).

All memorable achievements were brought about by leaders who had vision. God uses visions to excite leaders because excited leaders get the most out of followers. Active followers accomplish much, and Christ’s Body keeps getting bigger thanks to prevailing local churches. That is why Proverbs 29:18 clearly states, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Let a leader grasp a godly vision, and then watch God work.
-Ken Godevenos (link)

Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.” They can’t focus, can’t reach their goal, can’t follow their dream. An older translation says, “Without vision, the people perish.” I’ve seen it with my own eyes – without vision, people lose the vitality that makes them feel alive.
-Bill Hybels, Courageous Leadership, page 31

In the workbook section of Transitioning, a text book for leading a church from a “program-driven” to purpose-driven model, Dan Southerland examines vision in the light of Proverbs 29:18, suggesting that we should interpret this verse in the present tense to read “Where there is no visioning…(page 177)” the people perish.

Tony Morgan, pastor of Granger Community Church in South Bend, Indiana, quoting this passage, writes, “Without a planned destination, no one knows where to go. In churches, that leads to people doing ministry without a purpose. Programs drive these churches because no one has determined where the church is going. A vision statement paints a picture of the ideal future of your ministry and focuses prayer, energy, and resources.”

What is this vision these church leaders are referring to? Southerland defines vision as “a picture of what God wants to do. Vision is a picture of what God will do in His church if we get out of His way and turn Him loose to do so” (Transitioning page 22). Hybels says that “vision is a picture of the future that produces passion” (Courageous Leadership, page 32).

Vision, according to these authors, is an integral part of church leadership. A leader who does not cast and follow vision, leads his church towards destruction. The words “the people perish” is often interpreted by proponents of church growth to mean that churches without clear vision will lose members and be unable to numerically grow and flourish.

But is that conclusion supported by this verse?

It is interesting to note that all of the men have quoted the King James Version’s rendering of Proverbs 29:18, which reads “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This is strange in that these men would never preach from the King James, nor would they recommend it for study or devotional reading. So why would they quote from this old translation? The answer becomes clear when we examine other translations:

NIV – Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint
NLT – When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild
CEV – Without guidance from God law and order disappear
NKJV – Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint
HCSB – Without revelation people run wild
ESV – Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint
AMP – Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish

The New King James and some of the other translations footnote the alternate translation of “revelation,” saying that it can also mean “prophetic vision.” The Amplified works “redemptive revelation of God” into the text.

Clearly the meaning of these contemporary translations is vastly different than the meaning that has been assigned to the King James’ rendering. The Hebrew word that is causing all the trouble is chazon which refers specifically to a prophetic vision. This is not vision in the sense of “a picture of the future that produces passion” and only a small amount of research into the text shows this to be true. Strong suggests the following meanings:

a) vision (in ecstatic state)
b) vision (in night)
c) vision, oracle, prophecy (divine communication)
d) vision (as title of book of prophecy)

None of these can be used to support the type of vision these authors are suggesting. Furthermore, “perish” does not mean “die” but rather “cast off restraint.” The meaning of the verse is clear – Where there is no prophetic vision or revelation from God the people cast off restraint, no longer faithfully interpreting God’s Word and His Laws.

We should also note that none of these authors we listed above have completed the verse. The King James renders the rest of the verse as follows: “but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” The ESV says “but blessed is he who keeps the law.” The word “but” contrasts something from the first clause and the second. Obviously, what is being contrasted is those who cast off restraint when there is no revelation from God with those who keep the Law regardless. This verse warns against turning from the revelations of God and promises blessing to those who honor Him.

It is possible that a brief, careless reading of one translation of the Bible could lead to confusion as to this verse’s meaning. But for anyone who rightly handles the Word of God, paying attention to the sense of the text and to the meaning of the specific words used, the meaning of this verse is obvious. This verse says nothing of the importance of having a church that is led by vision or a visionary. Ironically, this verse should underscore the importance of honoring God’s revelation, and warn those who would water it down by sloppy or deliberate misuse.

A Reality Which Needs Addressing

Reinhold Niebuhr gives us this reality needing to be addressed:

No amount of evidence to the contrary seems to shake man’s grand opinion of himself.

Proverbs 20:6 addresses it further:

Every man proclaims his own goodness.

Isaiah 66:2 resolves this for us:

This is the one to whom I will look; he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My word.

In 2013: How Open Minded Should I Be?

I often wonder if I am being too open minded or too close minded in my day to day life as a Christian.  I mean, I want to be accepting towards other people, but I don’t want to come off as so accepting that other non-Christian people to view my acceptance as approval of their own beliefs and sin.

So how open minded ought I to be?  Proverbs 14:15 guides me and you when it says, “The naive believes everything.  But the sensible man considers his steps.”

Notice how this Proverb said that it was the naive one who believed everything, and the sensible man who was wise here by considering before believing?  This is exactly opposite of what our world today tells us.  People often tell me this: “Be open minded to be a sensible and wise person.  Those who are closed off are ignorant and arrogant.”  Well, based on Proverbs 14:15 how open should my mind be?  Not very.

Therefore my mind (and therefore my heart and soul) must constantly inquiring before letting things in.  Simple truth here guys: Don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out.

The Consequences of Fearing God

The fear of God is a glorious doctrine that is often overlooked in Christian circles. It is my experience that when believers meet and begin talking about the struggles in their walk with Christ you rarely, if ever, hear one say in response to someone’s struggles, “Maybe you’re not fearing God like you should be. You ever thought of that?” Perhaps they should.

There are two places in the Bible that lead me to this, and they are both in the book of Proverbs.

“The fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (1:7)

“Through the fear of The Lord men depart from sin.” (16:6)

It is in these two powerful statements where we come to see the consequences of fearing God. The wisdom of the Lord as well as the seriousness of sin. Sure, Christians need many things in their heads and hearts in order to live godly lives in this world, but are there two things more essential to the Christian than these two? It does seem to me that if these are in the soul of the Christian, everything else will fall into place.

It is not only wise to fear God, it is saving to the soul.