The Fool: Discerning Him

“You’re a fool,” declared my co-worker, who is often hasty and disrespectful to everyone at work.  The context was in regard to my turning down double time pay on a Sunday to “go to church.”  I felt like turning the tables and showing him what a fool really is.  But then I remembered the words of our Lord Jesus:

 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother ‘Raca,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the hell of fire.”

So I resisted the temptation.


Proverbs 26

1 Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
honor is not fitting for a fool.
Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow,
an undeserved curse does not come to rest.
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
and a rod for the backs of fools!
Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.
Sending a message by the hands of a fool
is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison.
Like the useless legs of one who is lame
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
Like tying a stone in a sling
is the giving of honor to a fool.
Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
10 Like an archer who wounds at random
is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.
11 As a dog returns to its vomit,
so fools repeat their folly.

My co-worker’s statement got me thinking about the fool as described in the Bible.  So I began a topical study through The Book of Proverbs about the fool. My desire in this study was that I might be better able to discern the fool.  However something else happened through my study, which I should have been prepared for, but I wasn’t …  I became far more aware of foolishness in my own life and character.  I wanted to be able to detect folly in others, so I might help them (or avoid them), but there in the midst of my study I said to myself…”I’m such a fool.”  Then I turned to God in prayer rejoicing in his Word, repenting of my own foolishness and requesting that I might have at least a small measure of wisdom.  I hope that through this series of posts on “the fool” you might be as enriched in your own faith life as I have been.

To call someone a fool is to tell him that he is worthless, and is to essentially proclaim that the world would better off without him. So we should be very careful whom we call a fool!  Some might argue that we should not judge others, that I might be wrong in posting this series.  It is true that we are not to judge others; however our Lord Jesus did not say that we should not be discerning of a person’s character, but that we should not be involved in the destruction of a person’s character.   So if I were to gossip or slander a particular person, pointing out their character flaws and telling everyone about it I would be guilty of sinning.   However, we are to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the fool, as we shall see.  In this first article I would like to show how we are required to be discerning when dealing with others, and that includes being able to detect foolishness.

Through out the Bible we read about avoiding fools or evil and wicked people. So it stands to reason that we have to be able to discern the character of others. In the book of Proverbs we see that we should not associate with fools.  That means we should not be friends with a foolish person, nor should we hire or work for fools. Those who get in the way of the fool will get hurt. Foolishness is also contagious, and to make friends with a fool will lessen our ability to discern truth from error and wisdom from foolishness. A fool is bound for his own destruction, and he will predictably destroy everything in his path including his job, coworkers, friends and family. So watch out and get out of the way!

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. ~ Proverbs 13:20

Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge ~ Proverbs 14:7

Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly ~ Proverbs 17:12

Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out, even strife and dishonor will cease ~ Proverbs 22:10

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. ~ Proverbs 22:24-25

Sending a message by the hands of a fool is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison. ~ Proverbs 26:6

Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by. ~ Proverbs 26:10

In the book of Proverbs we see that we must be careful when dealing with a fool.  Since we cannot always avoid a fool, we should know how to deal with one. We cannot deal with all people in the same way. Our response to people must be based on the kind of character they have shown.  I have on more than one occasion attempted to deal with a foolish person as if they were wise, only to have it blow up in my face.

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.  Proverbs 9:7-8

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.  Proverbs 26:4-5

We need discernment when dealing with others. Discerning the fool’s character is a requirement for those who would be wise.   In the next post, we will look at the characteristics of a fool.  Please resist the temptation to first point the finger at others when reading the next post.  We do well to point it at ourselves and deal with the folly in our own lives first.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

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  1. Ryan,

    The Word of God is the supreme authority on fools. Mr. T, however, sits unchallenged in second place. Nice choice of photo.