It seems strange that in many cultures we celebrate what is known as “April Fool’s Day”, and yet we don’t seem to have an equivalent for a “wise people’s day”. Celebrating wisdom may not appear to be as much “fun”, but certainly our world needs to encourage more people of wisdom than it does fools (of whom, if one watches the news, there is no lack of in our world).
Being wise or having wisdom can be defined as being discerning, insightful, perceptive, having good judgement, etc. Surely an attribute that we should all desire and aim for whenever possible.
Obviously, the most obvious antonym of “wise” is “unwise”, used of one lacking in all the above attributes. But the Bible, surprisingly, uses that other word, and that is “fool”! In fact, this word (i.e., fool or foolish) is used over 140 times in the O.T. Not surprisingly, at least 100 times in the Wisdom Literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes). There is even one Bible character who was unfortunate to have been given the name Nabal. Concerning him it was said, He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. (1 Samuel 25:25) Here are a few other examples:
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. (Psalm 14:1)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning. (Eccl. 4:13)
And then there is the mention of fools in Psalm 92. In verse 1-5 the psalmist speaks of worship, exhorting us to praise the Lord as he sings for joy at what [God’s] hands have done.
5 How great are your works, Lord,
how profound your thoughts!
But then, he changes the subject and states:
6 Senseless people do not know,
fools do not understand.
7 that though the wicked spring up like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.
Concerning the use of this word “fool”, Wilcock suggests:
“The fool of verse 6 is … not a person who is stupid but one who ignores God. What is underlined here is his lack of perception. It may be that the verse looks back to what precedes it, so that the greatness of God’s works and the profundity of his thoughts are the things the fool does not understand. It may be on the other hand … [linked to] what follows.: the fool does not understand that the flourishing wicked are on ‘slippery ground’ and on their way ‘down to ruin’ (Psalm 73:18). In practice both are true. The fool cannot see either the greatness of God or the littleness of man, in particular the brevity and the pointlessness of the life of the wicked man.” (# 5)
But, the use of “fool” is not confined to the Old Testament, because when we turn to the New Testament we see it used at least 45 times. One example is in Luke when we read that Jesus was talking to a crowd of people warning them about “all kinds of greed” and so he told the following parable:
16 “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
Jesus then summed it up by saying:
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
And on another occasion, Jesus was teaching multitudes of people and said:
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7)
May God grant us wisdom in these days to understand the greatness of God and the littleness of mankind. To live for Him and not for ourselves. To always be rich towards God and others. And to put into practice His words of truth, building our lives on the strong foundation of Him who is our Rock, i.e., to not be fools! Amen.