“Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you will be like him yourself.”
I recently read “Hidden Worldviews” by Steve Wilkens and Mark L. Sanford. In one of the chapters they were describing the worldview known as individualism. Individualism is the thought that the center of the universe, both yours and those surrounding you, revolves around your needs and desires. In other words, for an individualist the entire goal of life is to live your life in such a way that you bring yourself the most joy, comfort, and success regardless of the cost. They did a terrific job outlining this point of view and in many cases, sadly, I could personally relate to what they were saying.
I thought this particular section was very interesting and fitting for Proverbs 26 so I’d like to share it with you.
“The Greek city-state had an interesting way of calling citizens together when a vote for some type of action was needed. If, for example, another city-state was marching against them to do battle, a person would walk the streets blowing a horn, announcing that all should gather in the amphitheater just outside of town. When the citizens of the city heard this, they would close up their shops, head to the amphitheater to get the news and fulfill their civic duty by voicing their response. However, some shop-owners refused to shut down, hoping to do extra business while the competitors’ businesses were closed. The Greeks referred to such persons as idiots, which means someone is closed up in their own world who, concerned only with personal goals, ignores the greater good.” (Wilkens and Sanford, p 30)
For so many, this ideology is exactly what we do daily to varying degrees. In some cases this individualism may be seen in shady business dealings like described above, but in most cases they are of a much more subtle nature. We may not notice them all the time, but as Solomon points out in chapter 26, these fools, dare I say idiots, are all around us masquerading as being wise, but in reality they are the farthest from it.
Now, I’m the chief of idiots sometimes so I in no way am claiming to be perfect, but Solomon’s words strikes at the heart of a lot of areas of our idiotic lives.
- Idiots like to curse people out by throwing daggers and then hiding to protect themselves. (vv. 2,10)
- Idiots will try to provoke you with meaningless things and bait you into arguments. (v. 4)
- Idiots will take something you’ve said and distort it to make you look bad or make them look good. (v. 6)
- Wisdom is wasted on an idiot because they will use it improperly and it will only be dead weight to them. (vv. 7,9)
- An idiot repeats the same mistake over and over and over without ever learning. (v. 11)
- An idiot thinks he is God’s gift to everyone and everything. Nothing he says is wrong and everything he says you should listen to. (vv. 12,16,25)
- Idiots are lazy and do as little as possible regardless of who it may hurt or help (vv. 13-15)
- Idiots look at gossip about others as vital information for everyone to know when in reality all it is is a distraction from you looking at their foolish life. (vv. 20, 22)
- Idiots are great at deceiving themselves and others, but in time they are always found out for who they really are. (v. 26)
One would hope that we all would wake up and smell the roses to our mistakes and screw-ups, but we all know that doesn’t always happen. In most cases if we did decided to take a whiff, we’d just wake up with a nose full of thorns because we sniffed the wrong end! In fact, Solomon is also very clear about what will naturally happen to an idiot if he keeps doing what he’s doing.
“If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.” (v. 27)
What is so frustrating is that so many people, me included, fall into the traps of foolish, idiotic people. We get sucked in, beat up, and spit out. This only feeds the individualistic cravings of self-worth, which is all at the expense of you and me. A fool will eventually fall into his own trap, pit, mess, vomit (whatever you want to say) if we just let him be. But what we often do is fall into the pit with them and end up covered in the same mess they are! We can try to blame them, but that is truly on us for our foolish decisions.
The relief for all of us idiots (and we all are from time to time) is that God loves us and despite our idiotic ways His grace still covers us, but for our sake God is hoping we choose something different. Wisdom rooted in God tells us that we should not follow folly but our Father. His wisdom will leave us feeling strong, not in our ability to make ourselves happy, but be strong in that God has a better plan than we could ever try to manipulate in our favor. His wisdom will never fail and will never leave us with egg on our face.