“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:29
Well, I don’t know about you, but I am so relieved that I am not a fool! I think that has been my mindset every time I’ve read Proverbs. I honestly skim over the verses on fools because I don’t think they apply to me.
I even looked up the dictionary definition of a “fool”, just to check… it says;
“a professional jester, formerly kept by a person of royal or noble rank for amusement: the court fool.
a person who has been tricked or deceived into appearing or acting silly or stupid: to make a fool of someone.
an ardent enthusiast who cannot resist an opportunity to indulge an enthusiasm (usually preceded by a present participle): He’s just a dancing fool. * (dictionary.com)”
That doesn’t describe me, so the 95 times it’s used in the Bible I can thankfully ignore.
I lived in blissful ignorance with this idea until yesterday. My small group is studying “Biblical Soul Care” and in this week’s session the instructor was discussing foolishness and he gave an entirely new definition of a fool to me. He said a fool is one who chooses something other than God to satisfy, they are double minded, seek pleasure and ease and immediate gratification.
Talk about revolutionary. That definition just put myself, and probably every Christian I know, on the hook for being a fool. In fact, his definition not only resonated with me, but recalled the fact that this same definition can be synonymous for idolatry. I’m not talking praying to a golden calf in your house, but isn’t idol worship what we do when we replace God with someone, or something else? We begin to worship this thing that we think will bring us satisfaction. Now if that isn’t foolish then I don’t know what is.
This bothered me so much that I had to go home and look up some of the original word meanings. The idea that a fool is someone who is silly or stupid didn’t come into play in the English language until the 1400’s when it was used to describe someone who was insane, and by 1593 was being used generally for someone being silly. Previous to that, the word meant “to be without sense” (Oxford English Dictionary). But it gets even more interesting. One of the words for “fool” in Hebrew, and the one used in Prov 1:7, means “evil”. There are two other Hebrew words used in Proverbs that mean, stupid and without reason; but evil?
Evil is a murderer, or thief, or an adulterer… but doesn’t God call Israel a harlot for worshiping other gods? Even in Proverbs 9, it talks about a woman of folly sitting on the high places calling to people as they pass by. Evil.
I suppose, someone who is idolizing someone or something other than God really is evil. It is commandment #1 and 2, to have no other God, and not to make an idol; and yet, I worship something other than God all the time. How often have I put another person in the place of God? Even myself? We worship our families, our spouses, our jobs, our friends, even our ministries; instead of the Most High God. Is there a better description of us than “fools”? How can I really think that any thing, or anyone, other than the Ancient of Days, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Jehovah… Yeshua – could ever satisfy me? Perhaps if I start to think of myself as a fool, and my actions evil, I will start to grasp the severity of what I’m doing.
So what’s the flipside? The other half of the Proverb? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” and later in Proverbs 9:10 it says “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We worship what we fear.
If I have a fear of what people think of me, then I most likely have made man (perhaps someone specific, maybe generally) my idol. If I have a fear of failure, then I will tend to worship my success and efforts to not fail. Idolatry – foolishness – evil.
But if I can learn to truly fear the Lord, to develop the awe and reverence that knowing God intimately brings, I will learn to worship Him alone. No idol will be able to stand next to what I know of God. I will have torn down the high places in my life, beginning my journey to wisdom.
Unfortunately, the fool rarely turns from his folly. He is wise in his own eyes, so why would he accept spiritual direction from someone else? Why would he need counsel or instruction? What could he possibly need to turn from? To repent from? Oh that God would teach me to “forsake my folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.” (Proverbs 9:6) To have eyes to see, and ears to hear.