Monday, January 23, 2012

The Folly of Fools

A while back, Glenn Beck authored a book called, "Arguing with Idiots."  In it, he quotes the arguments (talking points) of the extreme left, right, and other ideologues and then responds to them with what he considered reason and logic.  Focusing as much on the 'funny' as the truth as he understands it, he employed a great deal of condescension for the 'idiots.'  It could be argued the 'idiots' provide the fodder for their own character assassination.  I don't think Glenn is proficient at or even concerned about arguing with 'idiots' in a way that comes off as (agapeo) loving as described in my "Other Centered" article, 'making knowledge acceptable' but his intention IS for the betterment of society and of the 'idiot's' own welfare.  However, he has hit on the one correct tactical response to a fool's argument.  With all the authority of an adult caretaker of an undisciplined child, insist on right, good, reason, truth speaking and accountability.

For my part, the Christian is cautioned not to use the term 'fool' in condemnation of a person.  Matthew 5:22  "Rhacca" or 'worthless' could be translated into 'dangerous' and 'deadly.'  That being the case, charges of 'fool' interpreted as dangerous to our culture could literally wind up with death penalties for ignorance and honest mistakes and anyway, God never intended we clean the culture by death penalty for ordinary folly.  Everyone is foolish.  It must be so, because all sin is foolish self destruction and yet, everybody sins.  Literally, every person on earth is deserving of the death penalty in that case and what did He hang on the cross for?  Therefore, Christ told us we would be in danger of hellfire for character assassination.  

In the circumstance of arguing with a fool, if one is not able to be authoritative, he appears as foolish as the fool.  However, if he is able to be authoritative, whatever remains of the fool's good reputation is destroyed by his own mouth in comparison to the authority of truth.  

Our Lord did not condemn the assessment of a person’s character, but the assassination of one’s character.  We're supposed to assess who is and is not a fool for several reasons, but again with the caution not to go around charging fools and condemning them, justly or not.  The first reason we must assess the recipient's condition is for self preservation.  Fools are dangerous critters.  They hate and lie and slander and worse, frequently with no more incentive than an inherent blood lust.  
The second reason is to measure our answer according to their ability to receive it.  The more immature and undisciplined the mind, the more care required in presenting the truth to make it acceptable or palatable.  It's literally like gaining the trust and respect of a child and leading them to reason out truth for themselves.  "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him" Proverbs (22:15).  The opening of a closed mind is usually a matter of respect and eventually, trust.  Some of the reasons a mind is closed is based on prejudice or judging in advance of investigation.  Some prejudice is based on real experience of abusive authority.  Still other prejudice is unwarranted, self serving wickedness.  
The third reason we must assess the recipient's spiritual condition is to further meet them in the area of their need.  A drug addict needs assistance in kicking his habit while an Anarchist ideologue needs a swift kick in the pants.  No? Okay, maybe its life coaching, but the kick would make ME feel better.  (that wasn't other centered was it?)

Thus it is that I cautiously step up onto the soapbox to laud arguments with fools to expose their folly.  My own abilities to articulate the truth to fools is far from where it should be at my age or even at my spiritual age. (the point at which I began to accept and employ the precepts the Bible promotes until now.)  As noted again, in my "Other Centered" article, God provides the ability at the right time and any attempt outside of that supernatural embodiment of His power to love in Agape', is nothing if not getting in the way of His agenda.  At the same time, I am to be prepared to give every man an answer for the hope that is within me.  In that endeavor, I try to be keep up with current events and historical knowledge as well as studying the Bible under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit.

In the spirit of objective truth, lets examine what behaviors exemplify folly.  It isn't what we've been led to think of as folly by Hollywood movies and slapstick humorists.  That's simply a projection of imaginary well intentioned oafs.  The traits of the foolish are listed in the 26th Chapter of Proverbs and they ain't well intentioned or oafish in most cases.  In fact, many fools can argue a blue streak and with the current state of the state-run schools promoting anti-wisdom mantras like, "Don't judge people" and "Truth is subjective" fools are purposefully filled with pride and feel justified in loudly and obnoxiously projecting their foolish opinions on the rest of the culture.  In my mind, that means we Christians have a huge task ahead of us to combat the misinformation in the form of self deluded popular opinion presented every bit as authoritative as revealed objective truth.  If we're not too far behind the curve of mass delusion, perhaps we can pull our culture back from the brink of self destruction.  On that score, I agree whole-heartedly with Glenn Beck.  I also agree with Ayn Rand on at least one point.  Truth must be preached over and over again, constantly for the express purpose of defeating harmful ideas. eg. 'social justice'  Truth must be intellectually defended from the ravages of self delusion and evil manipulators.  Now lets dig in to the meat of revealed truth.

<< Proverbs 26 >>
New American Standard Bible

Similitudes, Instructions
1Like snow in summer and like rain in harvest,
         So honor is not fitting for a fool.
No one is prepared for a cold day in the summer, neither is anyone prepared to honor fools.  Rain on a crop ripe for harvest delays the harvest at best and ruins it entirely at worst (with mildew or stripping winds and hail)  So is the building up of a fool's pride harmful to the community.
2Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying,
         So a curse without cause does not alight.
Blessing and cursing require the employment of faith.  Curses require the addition of the believer's righteousness and evil deeds or unrighteousness on the part of the recipient.  Contrarily, the enemy curses the righteous and the unrighteous, the former any way he can and the latter with deceitful promises in an effort to get them to do his bidding.
3A whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
         And a rod for the back of fools.
To make any beneficial use of the animals, often they must be given an incentive to do as instructed.  Similarly, with fools an authority figure must find and provide immediate incentives to the fool to behave as necessary to benefit the community or even themselves.
4Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
         Or you will also be like him.
Emotional responses or arguments without forethought bring your character and reputation down to the level of the fool.   You wind up impressing no one and improving nothing.  Your behavior is indistinguishable from the fool's.
5Answer a fool as his folly deserves,
         That he not be wise in his own eyes.
There is nothing so destructive to a society as the pride of a fool.  He goes about spreading his fool's agenda until challenged by an authoritative speaker of the truth whereupon his foolishness is exposed and his agenda scrapped.
6He cuts off his own feet and drinks violence
         Who sends a message by the hand of a fool.
The author didn't have a word like 'handicaps' so he described a literal handicap (self inflicted) and compares this self destruction and public danger by his willingness to place responsibility and trust in the hands of a fool.
7Like the legs which are useless to the lame,
         So is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
A fool is incapable of discerning wisdom and truth.  He will misinterpret the proverb and thus the proverb being misapplied is comparable to dead weight as opposed to useful appendages.
8Like one who binds a stone in a sling,
         So is he who gives honor to a fool.
A stone swung in a sling that does not release it's load will continue it's round until it collides with the wielder.  In other words, "you'll knock your eye out, kid!"  No society can afford the presence of a proud fool.  Honoring him will increase his pride and empower him to spread his folly into others.
9Like a thorn which falls into the hand of a drunkard,
         So is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
A drunk is more susceptible to auto responses and one such natural reaction to something touching the skin of the hand is to automatically close the hand on the object that strikes it.  Closing the hand on a thorn is going to force that thorn to pierce the skin.  That's what a proverb does to the fool's character and reputation through his repeating it out of proper context.
10Like an archer who wounds everyone,
         So is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by.
This proverb reminds me of the old cartoon with Injun Joe in which one of his compatriots would always be behind another Indian during battles.  When he let fly his arrow it always conked his friend in the back of the head.  The employer is charged with choosing industrious and virtuous people to hire.  Without foreknowledge of their character, he is taking a great chance in hiring a foolish character.  The foolish character is dangerous to be near, especially in a work environment where people are focusing their attentions on their own duties instead of the dangers created by the fool.
11Like a dog that returns to its vomit
         Is a fool who repeats his folly.
Yes, dogs actually do eat their vomit and yes, fools actually do repeat the same mistakes over and over again as if without memory or reason.
12Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
         There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Troubling information that fools are not the worst society has to offer.  Worse is a man unable or unwilling to seek or even accept correction in his behavior and purpose.
13The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road!
         A lion is in the open square!”
Note the terms switch from fool to sluggard but the theme continues.  He will lie to make excuses for not doing what he knows he should be doing.
14As the door turns on its hinges,
         So does the sluggard on his bed.
He quite literally groans as he rolls over just like a door on squeaky hinges.
15The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
         He is weary of bringing it to his mouth again.
It's a pretty extreme case when a person cannot be bothered to feed himself.  These few sluggard proverbs are meant to exaggerate the case so the sluggard can laugh at his own ways and therefore accept correction.
16The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
         Than seven men who can give a discreet answer.
Again, but this time not for humor but for force to point out his unwillingness to be corrected.  The seven men wise enough to provide discretion are able to measure their answers to make knowledge acceptable to the recipient.
17Like one who takes a dog by the ears
         Is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.
You have to be blind to the consequences, self destructive, looking for a fight, or supernaturally tasked and empowered to insert yourself into another's self destruction.
18Like a madman who throws
         Firebrands, arrows and death,
Ever heard the phrase, "Looking for trouble?"  This seeker will find his goal in short order.  A prime example comes to mind that has lately made the news.  "Suicide by cop."  A perpetrator of crimes is relentless and unswerving in his attempt to challenge the police with deadly force until they're forced to act in preservation of innocent life, their own or bystanders.
19So is the man who deceives his neighbor,
         And says, “Was I not joking?”
A poor disguise or a thinly veiled ill intention.  This phrase is so prevalent in present day culture it needs no further interpretation.  "It was a joke!  Don't get mad!"
20For lack of wood the fire goes out,
         And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.
Contention is not the normal state of relationships.  It requires the fuel of an evil spirit to keep stirring up relational problems.
21Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
         So is a contentious man to kindle strife.
Compares the fuel and the fire to evil spirits and unwitting people.  The wicked want to destroy relationships.
22The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels,
         And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.
Tempting is the drama of contention to boredom and the strife of contention easily finds the core of our relationships.
23Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross
         Are burning lips and a wicked heart.
Once one becomes attracted to drama, they are unworthy to keep company with, for seeking harm to the community.
24He who hates disguises it with his lips,
         But he lays up deceit in his heart.
The malcontent knows their character is unattractive so they attempt to hide it while simultaneously planning and acting out wickedness.
25When he speaks graciously, do not believe him,
         For there are seven abominations in his heart.
Once you recognize this character, just know their intention is to do harm to your relationships and murder your character and reputation.
26Though his hatred covers itself with guile,
         His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
Eventually, the truth always comes out and it does so in a public way no matter how well camouflaged.
27He who digs a pit will fall into it,
         And he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.
Evil people get caught in their own traps.  They cannot discern their self destruction nor it's cause frequently blaming the innocent, but the discerning spirit recognizes the handiwork as being their own.
28A lying tongue hates those it crushes,
         And a flattering mouth works ruin.
Helps to define hatred as ill intentioned.  Flattery undeserved, has an agenda and it is never set for wholly beneficial purposes.  It is designed to win the favor of one who can be used to do evil by proxy.

Other verses scattered around the book of Proverbs include:

Leave the presence of a fool, Or you will not discern words of knowledge (14:7).
The proactive Christian is tasked with pre-purposing his mind and will to be subject to one influence.  That of the Holy Spirit.  Prior to Jesus' ascension after having defeated death and Hades, the faithful did not have these tools.  Even so, to this day we are repeatedly cautioned to guard our hearts from wicked desires and evil temptations.
Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, Rather than a fool in his folly (17:12).
If you have not prepared your heart for this fool's specific folly, you may be subject to his influence.  That one encounter can be enough to send you off track for the rest of your life affecting your family and everyone you ever rub shoulders with.
Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, Even strife and dishonor will cease (22:10).
Echoes 26:21-28 but most specifically 26:23 and provides the more proactive "Drive out" the fool, referred to in this case as the scoffer and in verse 9:7,8 counters the scoffer with the wise.
Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him (22:15).
The child is still open enough to respect and trust the loving righteous authority in their lives to be corrected.  It may frequently not seem so, but the consistent loving and righteous authority figure will inculcate a deep and lasting effect.
He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you, Reprove a wise man, and he will love you (9:7-8).
This is self preserving wisdom.  It prefers the open mind to the closed mind.  Jesus encouraged every believer to go to all the world with the Gospel.  He forewarned His disciples that they would be hated and persecuted for His name's sake.  This call to 'follow Him' specifically includes the examples He set on the cross, eg. death.  The dishonor stated above is lost at the point of 'other centeredness' and 'other concern' revealed in our personal sacrifice for the sake of the lost and self destructing fools.  Paul described himself as a 'fool' for Christ because the 'wisdom' of Christians is folly in the eyes of the secular world, not for lack of Christian reason or logic, but because of the fools' disregard of reason and logic.

Okay; enough.  If you want more, keep going but you're going to have to look them up and contemplate them under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit yourselves.  Let me just close by saying, the issue of folly and wisdom is one of the heart.  You cannot really reason folly out of the fool, neither can you teach him not to be a fool, you'd be hard pressed to beat the folly out of a fool.  No, in God's time, with loving kindness present the Good news of God's accomplishment on our behalf.  Until the fool is prepared to receive that fundamental truth, he will reject your proof and resent your insinuation that he is at fault for anything.  By the way, Christians are certainly not immune to folly, thus the warnings to avoid the fool in his folly.  Its contagious.  You are however, empowered by the Holy Spirit to discern truth and you should proactively use the time at hand to study the Bible for pre-confrontation preparation against the day you are stuck in an elevator for hours with a wicked fool, or faced with the folly of your teens on a cross-country drive.  I'll have to share the situation God put me in to give me the incentive to study the stuff He wanted me to study in His Word, someday.  Either of the above situations would have been preferable.

Desire realized is sweet to the soul, But it is an abomination to fools to depart from evil (13:19).
Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool; And so is wisdom to a man of understanding (10:23).
Fools mock at sin, But among the upright there is good will (14:9).
The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of understanding (10:21)
Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom, When he has no sense? (17:16).
A scoffer seeks wisdom, and finds none, But knowledge is easy to him who has understanding (14:6).
Wisdom is too high for a fool, He will not open his mouth in the gate (24:7).
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction (1:7).
The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools feeds on folly (15:14).
A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind (18:2).
Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words (23:9).
Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding, But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth (17:24).
There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, But a foolish man swallows it up (21:30).
A fool’s vexation is known at once, But a prudent man conceals dishonor (12:16).
A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back (29:11).
A prudent man conceals knowledge, But the heart of fools proclaims folly (12:23).
The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly (15:2).

He who conceals hatred has lying lips, And he who spreads slander is a fool (10:18).
The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, But the folly of fools is deceit (14:8).
Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity Than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool (19:1).
The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly (15:2).
The lips of the wise spread knowledge, But the hearts of fools are not so (15:7)
Because they hated knowledge, And did not choose the fear of the Lord. They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, And be satiated with their own devices. For the waywardness of the naive shall kill them, And the complacency of fools shall destroy them (1:29-32).
A fool rejects his father’s discipline, But he who regards reproof is prudent (15:5).
A scoffer does not love one who reproves him, He will not go to the wise (15:12).
A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding Than a hundred blows into a fool (17:10).
Though you pound a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, Yet his folly will not depart from him (27:22).
Scorners set a city aflame, But wise men turn away anger (29:8).
The devising of folly is sin, And the scoffer is an abomination to men (24:9).
The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel (12:15).
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered (28:26).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil (3:5-7).
Leave the presence of a fool, Or you will not discern words of knowledge (14:7).
When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, The foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest (29:9).
In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back, But the lips of the wise will preserve them (14:3).
A fool’s lips bring strife, And his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, And his lips are the snare of his soul (18:6-7).
Luxury is not fitting for a fool; Much less for a slave to rule over princes (19:10).
Strike a scoffer and the naive may become shrewd, But reprove one who has understanding and he will gain knowledge (19:25)
“How long, 0 naive ones, will you love simplicity? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, And fools hate knowledge? Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you (1:22-24).
“Come, eat of my food, And drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake your folly and live, And proceed in the way of understanding” (9:5-6).
A much more thorough dissertation on the topic of fools can be found at

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