This article can also be read on The Expository Files.
The fool is a constant presence in Proverbs. He is characterized as prideful, shortsighted, naïve, dogmatic, and quarrelsome. He is the negative image of the wise man—known by his humility, thoughtfulness, discernment, consideration, and gentleness. He is usually set against the wise man so that we may see the vast difference between them. The fool is usually portrayed in his final form, having established himself as a fool long ago. But have you ever wondered how the fool earned his title? How did he become foolish in the first place? If we could know the answer, we could avoid foolishness in all its forms.
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (Prov 18:2)
To the fool, the notion of humbling himself to learn and understand holds no appeal. He takes no interest in the wisdom of others—least of all God. Instead of gaining pleasure from learning truth, he is gratified to express his opinion. His own dogmatic views are unquestionably correct. A fool is not born a fool. He grows into one with a prideful, self-assured attitude that never learns and only expresses opinions. This is the fool’s origin story!
Where can this fool be found today? Where is he growing and calcifying into his final foolish form? He will not often be found studying his Bible, yet he still seems to have strong opinions about Bible topics. He can be found at home eager to impose his own will on his family, never seeking to understand them. The fool can even be found in Bible classes where he comes, not to learn from God’s word, but to speak his mind.
The fool is timeless. He has existed in every era of history in every nation. He pops up in almost every book of the Bible. We deal with him everyday. But most disturbing are the seeds of the fool in my own heart. When I get satisfaction from expressing my opinion instead of gaining understanding, I am cultivating the fool’s heart.
Consider the origin of the wise man. He begins with reverence for God: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 1:7). He then quiets down his own opinionated heart and humbles himself, ready to “receive with meekness the implanted word” (Jas 1:21). Consider the wise man’s version of Proverbs 18:2. “A wise man takes no pleasure in expressing his opinion, but only in understanding.”