Dealing With a Fool
In the first two articles I looked at how the book of Proverbs teaches us to discern a fool and what the traits are of a foolish person. Today I will look at what the Bible teaches about how to deal with a fool. Click the links for Part 1 and Part 2
The overwhelming teaching we discovered is that we should not associate with a fool. We should go to great lengths to avoid a fool, like we would avoid a mother bear protecting her cubs. Atctually the proverb says it is better to meet a mother bear with her cubs than a fool..that is strong language, but the reason for that is that a wise man cannot make a fool wise, but a fool can transfer his folly to the wise man. The fool is dangerous, as we discovered in the last post. Because the fool is a detriment to those around him, we should guard ourselves from him. If we cannot leave, then he should be driven out, or excommunicated from your daily life and from fellowship in the church. The Apostle Paul teaches that we should not associate with professing Christians who are living in sin:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
The teachings of Jesus, in Matthew 18, instruct us to excommunicate those who disregard biblical rebuke and admonition, this includes the fool. Titus 3:10-11 echoes many of the Proverbs:
As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
In Matthew 7:6, our Lord warns us that we should not “cast our pearls before swine.” Here Jesus echoes Proverbs 23:9; he is telling us not to waste our time attempting to instruct a fool. The fool is always looking for trouble, and will invariably frustrate the wise person. Since he is quick to lose his temper, speak his mind and twist scripture, he will tempt us to lose our tempers and lower ourselves to the fool’s level. For this reason, in chapter 26, Proverbs teaches us not to let the fool get under our skin. Chapter 26 also teaches that we should also avoid stroking a fools ego. Do not praise a fool, and answer him according to his folly.
So if verbal rebuke is futile, and we are not to associate with a fool, and we are not to try and teach him, what then are we supposed to do? Well that is the hard part. He is to be disciplined. Severely. Proverbs 26:3 says
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
and a rod for the back of fools.
So even though the fool may not learn from even severe discipline, we are to be consistent in applying Matthew 18 in the hopes of bringing about repentance.
We read in chapter 13:15 that
“good sense wins favor,
but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.”
If the fool will not learn from severe discipline, we read here that his folly will bring about his ruin. That sounds terrible doesn’t it? Do not stop it. Do not get in the way and try to save the fool from his ruin. Let it happen. The consequence of his ruin may be exactly what the fool needs. Because God may use this ruin, this “rock bottom,” to soften his heart and bring regeneration. Not unlike the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, God may use ruin, the eating from a pigs lunch, to bring him out of his folly. Sometimes we need a crisis, a rock bottom, being slammed head first into the Rock of ages, to see our folly. And what a sweet grace it is to finally hit rock bottom in despair, only to have the Lord of Lords pick us up.
Continue to love the fool. Do not hate him, or despise him. The point in all this is we cannot use reason to turn a fool from his folly, and even rebuke and severe discipline may not work. But nobody is beyond hope. The reason why Proverbs teaches us not to try to reform a fool is that he must be transformed, and we cannot do that. Only God can do that. He needs to be regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word.
If we want to fix the fool, and help him be delivered from his foolish ways, we need to lead him to the cross. We need to plant a seed. We cannot tell the fool to “Stop being a fool.” That is like telling an alcoholic to stop drinking – it probably won’t work. He needs to repent. He needs to turn from his folly and instead turn to Jesus Christ. He needs to be saved from his sin. In Proverbs we read that wisdom is offered to all men; and the fool is even urged to turn from his foolishness. Which implies that even the fool can turn, even the fool can be saved. Even the fool can be restored.
The only solution for the fool is to turn from his folly, from trusting in himself or his own “wisdom,” or odds, or feelings, to fearing God. Roman’s 5 tells us that while we were sinners Christ died for us. In our folly Christ Died for us. He transformed us. If we would help the fool it is not in teaching or rebuking or admonishing him, but in proclaiming to him the way of salvation, that glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. It is only the gospel which transforms men through the power that raised Jesus to life. Let us pray that we may be used as tools in the Lord’s hand to scatter seeds on the hardened soil of the fool’s heart. Pray that the Holy Spirit would plough the soil and cause new birth in the fool’s heart.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5