What Kind of Fool Am I
By: Dr. Steven C. Riser
|By: Dr. Steven Riser; ©2006|
|When I was a teenager my older brother presented me with the motto which said: “When you’re as great as I am it’s hard to be humble.” It should have read: “When you are as foolish as I am, it’s impossible to become wise.” In this article, I want to share with you some confessions of a recovering fool.|
- 1 What Kind of Fool Am I?
What Kind of Fool Am I?
Introduction: Confessions of a Recovering Fool
When I was a teenager my older brother presented me with the motto which said: “When you’re as great as I am it’s hard to be humble.” It should have read: “When you are as foolish as I am, it’s impossible to become wise.”
Robert Goullet once sang a song which began, “What kind of fool am I?” My answer is: a recovering fool. In this article, I want to share with you some confessions of a recovering fool.
When I was a teenager, I was not on speaking terms with God because: the things He wanted me to do I didn’t do and the things I wanted to do, He didn’t want me to do. How stupid was that? When I was about 16 years of age, I thought I knew just about everything there was to know that was worth knowing. Like Mohammed Ali, I thought, “I was the greatest!” I didn’t understand the three spiritual laws: 1. There is only one God. 2. You are not Him. 3. Repent.
How many do you know who are foolish enough to believe that their world should revolve around them?
By the grace of God I came to understand that there is no conflict between what is pleasing to God and what is best for me. Only then was I willing to consciously cooperate with what God was seeking to do in and through my life. Now my life has a new purpose: “To know Christ and to make Him known.”
If you were to see the difference between my life before and after Christ, you would hardly believe it. How do I explain the difference? It was nothing less than a personal experience of God’s grace/wisdom. Since I have had some experience in living like a fool, I would like to share with you from the Bible how you too can become a fool – that is – if you are foolish enough to consider it. On the other hand, if you can discover what a fool is and do just the opposite, perhaps you can become wise!
Explanation: The Fool in the Bible
The fool plays a major role in the biblical drama, especially in the “wisdom literature.” He appears more than 70 times in the book of Proverbs alone. If you throw in his bosom buddies – the mocker, the scoffer and the sluggard – the number of stage appearances swells to nearly 100!
The contrast between wisdom and folly is the primary theme of the book of Proverbs. Solomon repeatedly says that wisdom is better than any earthly possession (Prov. 2:1-6; 8:1-21). Foolishness however, results in great tragedy: “The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment” (Prov. 10:21). They don’t clearly understand the causes and consequences of their actions.
The life of a fool is always destructive. According to Proverbs, we have one of only two options: We can be part of the problem or we can be part of the solution. We can…
1)Grow in wisdom, and live wisely and draw others to wisdom; or
2)Grow in folly and draw others into foolishness. What will it be? The choice is up to thee!
The Fool’s Guide to Foolish Living
A man once confessed, “Acquiring wisdom is tough; living like a fool is second nature to me.” The easiest way to become a fool is simply to do what comes naturally. But, just in case you need some help in diagnosing foolish behavior, permit me to share with you: The Fools Guide to Foolish Living.
If you follow these four easy steps, you too can live like a complete fool!
Step 1: Don’t Think, Just Impulsively React and Do Whatever You Feel
Rather than thinking (or heaven forbid, praying) through issues or conflict, fools just react. On the positive side, they certainly get things done. Unfortunately, a fool’s reactions are often rash, impulsive and angry.
A wise person can retreat from a heated discussion long enough to give a gentle answer. A fool bursts into situations blazing with anger and stirring up strife (Prov. 15:1). The wise are patient with life’s frustrations; fools have short fuses (Prov. 14:17). A fool unleashes his rage with full force, but the wise quietly restrain their temper, expressing anger in the proper way and at the proper time (Prov. 29:11).
How is it with you? Do you have a short fuse, go off half cocked and act impulsively? Only a fool makes up his mind before hearing both sides of a matter. Wise men get all the facts, think and pray before reacting.
Step 2: Develop a Big Mouth: Let Your Speech Evidence Your Foolish Heart
Because they are full of pride, fools have big mouths and they never seem to know when to shut up. They talk constantly, babbling on and on (Prov. 10:14, 19), sometimes gossiping (Prov. 20:19), often pouring forth verbal folly (Prov. 15:2) and broadcasting their foolishness to the world at large (12:23).
A fool doesn’t seek to understand an issue or a person’s heart; he just wants to prove a point (Prov. 18:2). Foolish people simply talk too much. “Where many words are present, sin is not absent.” That’s why Scripture instructs us to pare down our speech, speaking less and listening more. “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent” (Prov. 17:28). Proverbs 30:32 says, “If you have played the fool… clap your mouth!”
Are you contentious or pugnacious? Proverbs says that “a fool is quick to quarrel.” The two most common reasons for being short tempered are: 1) be selfish or 2) having a lot of unresolved hostility.
In the New Testament, the Apostle James warned against speaking carelessly: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (Jas. 1:19). If you really want to be a fool, never take time to listen, just keep talking. Above all, avoid doing what Jesus always did: listening to the heart of every person He met. Only a fool tells all he knows.
Because a fool isn’t open to reason (not intellectually honest) he isn’t willing to be persuaded by the facts. Sharing the truth with a fool is like casting your pearls before swine.
Step 3: Nurture a Noisy Heart: Refuse to Recognize the Reality of a Restless Heart
Steps 1 and 2 are facilitated by an inner spiritual problem: a noisy heart. Behind a fool’s flurry of outbursts lurks a compulsive restlessness. He can’t stop the yakking of his month because he can’t stop the yakking of his heart. The fool can’t or won’t practice contemplation or meditation (Isa. 57:20, 21).
Contemplation is a broad term for a life centered in Christ, a life that pays attention to God, a life that flows from walking in the Spirit. When we’re uncertain and overloaded, we often display fool-like behavior – unbridled restlessness – reacting rather than waiting, babbling rather than listening. This unbridled restlessness can display itself in a relentless, hyper-committed way of life that drives us outward so that our actions do not issue forth from a Spirit-led life, but from the inner compulsion of our sinful nature. We become impatient with every hunger, every ache and we become convinced that unless every pleasure we yearn for is tasted, we will be unhappy. How unfortunate! How deceptive! How destructive!
There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Prov. 14:12).
Unbridled restlessness is essentially what the Bible describes as foolishness. The fool cannot wait; he must have everything now. No delayed or deferred gratification. He is compulsive, casting off restraint (Prov. 14:16-18; 23:4). That’s why the fool routinely reenacts the same sin, like a dog returning to its own vomit (Prov. 26:11). A fool’s restlessness prevents him from paying attention to God. A fool has no fear of or respect for God, only contempt! He may be actively rebellious or passively indifferent, but in either case, he has no regard for God. He is spiritually deaf, dumb and blind!
If you want to be wise, develop a contemplative heart. Learn the art of listening to and waiting upon God. Constantly return to your center in Christ, drawing life from Him. But if you want to be a fool, let restlessness rule your inner life. Do not sit still and listen to Jesus. Instead, run frantically from one activity or need to the next. That’s the way of the fool. A fool is restless because he has no peace of mind and heart; further, he doesn’t want to be still and listen to that still small voice of God via his conscience.
What is the antidote for the restless heart? Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” The antidote to foolishness is the wisdom to trust and love God! – to learn to take God seriously, to honor God as God and to give Him His rightful place in our lives. “The fear of the Lord” is not only the beginning of wisdom; it is also the end of foolishness.
Step 4: Refuse to be Teachable, Take Advice or Learn the Easy Way
Fools reject others’ instruction and counsel – starting with their parents (10:1; 15:5) and then generalizing to other authority figures. The fool quickly becomes a person who refuses to listen to anyone. Why should he? He’s always wise in his own eyes (Prov. 12:15). His heart has a layer of armor around it that makes him virtually unbreakable (Prov. 17:10). His heart is callous – insensitive and unresponsive to God.
The fool despises true wisdom (Prov. 23:9). That’s why the fool prefers to keep company with other fools. Fellow fools never challenge him to grow in wisdom, to change, to repent, mature or develop (Prov. 12:20). Here, then, is the fork in the road and the line in the sand that separates the wise from the foolish.
The wise person is certainly imperfect, but he remains open, humble, and pliable – constantly learning, growing, and changing (Prov. 9:9). Fools, though, reject advice, spurn counsel and constructive criticism.
A wise person is not only teachable but is committed to life long learning – the easy way! As a result, he avoids a lot of unnecessary pain caused by the reproofs of life!
Here are the questions to ask one who aspires to a life of foolishness:
- When others correct me, how do I respond? Do I just get angry? Do I reject unsolicited advice?
- Do I confront them with their problems and sins? Do I respond with a “how dare you” attitude?
- Do I fail to learn from my own mistakes and the mistakes of others?
If so, you are well on your way to a life of foolishness. You might ask…
Is There Any Hope For Recovering Fools?
Being a fool is no laughing matter. Fools are dangerous people – to themselves: “A fool’s mouth is his undoing” (18:7); and to others: “Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly” (17:12). The bad news is that we are all capable of and perhaps even competent at foolish attitudes and actions.
The good news is that folly isn’t inevitable. We can become “ex-fools”, or at the least, “recovering fools.”
How do recovering fools grow in wisdom? We can begin by heeding God’s invitation to walk in wisdom. We don’t achieve wisdom; we receive it as God’s good gift (Jas. 1:5). Wisdom is portrayed, as an insistent hostess inviting all that will listen to enjoy her hospitality, “Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed.
Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding” (9:5- 6).
Through this generous hostess, God invites us to His lavish table of grace. Just as Jesus used parables to describe how God seeks the lost, so the Old Testament shows how God searches for fools, pleading with us to leave our folly and become wise (Prov. 8:1-3; 9:3-4). Jesus issued a similar invitation, comparing the kingdom of God to a magnificent banquet hosted by a generous king (Lk. 14:15-24). Growing in wisdom is impossible until I open my life to God’s offer of extravagant grace and loving discipline (correction).
Second Timothy 3:15 says that the holy Scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation through Jesus Christ.
Of course, responding to God’s grace won’t happen until I admit my lack of and need for His wisdom. The implication of this truth is unpleasant: I must acknowledge my perpetual knack for foolishness: “My guilt has overwhelmed me…” confessed the psalmist, “because of my sinful foolishness” (Psa. 38:4-5).
Practically this means I must regularly and humbly talk to God and others about my foolish behavior (Jas. 5:16). Confession (agreeing with God) is a radically “unfoolish” act, and admitting my folly is never pleasant. But it is absolutely necessary if I want to break the grip of folly on my life (1 John 1:9).
Finally, the wise delight in growth and discovery. The fool, in contrast, is stupid, stuck and stunted. He doesn’t need, desire or seek life transformation. He will not grow; he is an unresponsive spiritual dud!
What can you teach a fool? Absolutely nothing! Why? Because a fool never learns. Why? Because he thinks he already knows everything and he is perfectly content to stew in the juices of his ignorance. The fool’s heart and mind comprise a tightly closed universe; His heart is well defended and his mind is unteachable.
How different for the wise! Their hearts are open – marvelously open – to God, to wisdom, to correction, to other people, to grace and to new ideas and information. The wise are always learning, seeking and questing. They cry aloud for wisdom, seeking it as a hidden treasure (Prov. 2:1-5). The wise realize that wisdom is more precious than gold!
In the Sermon on the Mount, who did Jesus say was the wise person? Matthew 7:24 –The wise man was the one who heard Jesus’ words and puts them into practice. As opposed to the fool, who was…disobedient.
What can you teach a wise person? Almost anything. He realizes how little he knows and he hungers to know more. A wise person can even learn from the negative example of others. “A word to the wise is sufficient.” The Apostle James says that the wisdom from above in “open to reason.” In Isaiah, God says, “Come now let us reason together….”
On the other hand, the Psalmist tells us that, “A fool says in his heart, there is no God” (Psa. 14:1). You may not consider yourself an atheist, but are you a practical atheist? Although you may say you “believe in God”, do you live your life as if there is no God?
The fact of the matter is that none of us know what we don’t know and there is a great deal we don’t know and so there is a great need for each of us – for all of us – to be very humble and very teachable. There is a great need for each of us to look to God’s Word as our Owners Operating Manual and God’s Spirit as our teacher – illuminating our minds to the truth!
What Do You Do If You Want To Remain a Fool?
If you want to remain a fool,
- Keep reacting impulsively, do whatever you feel, if it feels good, do it
- Keep talking without thinking, open mouth and insert foot, show others how stupid you really are.
- Keep your activity without meaning or purpose; don’t invest your life in things that count for Christ.
- Keep feeling that you “know it all” so you are not open to reason and so you stop learning and growing.
- Resist correction and don’t listen to God or to your conscience and YOU WILL REMAIN A FOOL!
What Do You Do If You Want To Become Wise?
If you want to be wise,
- Keep your eyes, ears and heart open to God’s amazing grace.
- Take God seriously – develop a deep and abiding respect for God.
- Learn to trust Him and seek to please Him more and more.
- Realize there is never a conflict between what pleases Him and what is best for you.
- Accept His correction and be open to His loving discipline.
Such openness may, at times, be painful.
- You may learn some unpleasant things about your own soul.
- You may confront your own sin. Under the veneer of respectable behavior…
- You may still find a fool lurking in your heart.
As you move toward wisdom, however, you’ll meet God. With tender rebuke, He will correct and heal whatever is bent in your heart. In grace, God will woo you to His banquet table, where you’ll feast on the riches of His wisdom, instead of playing the fool.
What Kind of Fool Are You?
A “recovering” fool, by the grace of God, I hope!