What is a fool to you?
The word carries different meanings to different people, and how you perceive it will determine what steps you take to avoid being one.
- An idiot who makes stupid decisions.
- Someone who runs his mouth about absolutely nothing.
- The one who says in his heart that there is no God.
- A person who disagrees, intelligently or not, with an opinion you hold strongly.
- A medieval jester. (Definitely don’t be that guy.)
If Shakespeare is to be believed, the old-world fool was a sarcastic, deceptively intelligent wit who took nothing seriously. Everything could be twisted into a joke; nothing was too sacred to poke fun at; and he maintained his image (and his livelihood) by making an idiot of himself. In a world where even royal comforts were few and only a thin line divided survival from bankruptcy, the fool was the entertainment committee.
In modern culture, we’ve reversed the paradigm – fools are plentiful, humor is the epitome of human intelligence, and the one who takes life seriously is the weirdo. Your Sunday school class is replete with fools. There are fools in every pew of your church. You work with fools day in, day out. You have voted for fools. You have a fool in you.
“It’s only a big deal if you make it one.” Anytime it occurs to you that something might be a big deal, you have a choice: (1) seek wisdom, or (2) justify your choice. As a teenager I found an intriguing series of decades-old books about supernatural, even satanic things that I knew full well my godly parents would never allow. Despite their vigilant efforts, I found crafty ways to sneak the books home from the library one by one. Before long, I had so desensitized myself to their contents that I actually believed God didn’t care, that the Bible was only talking about “real” witchcraft, not harmless fiction.
But while I could justify it to myself and hide it from those who would correct me, I could not justify it before God. Has God ever chastened you so directly that there was no question that it came straight from the Throne? He dealt with me so unequivocally I’ve never forgotten it. It’s not pretty. If God says something is a big deal, trust me: no sugarcoating will convince Him otherwise. I’d love to say that lesson cured me of ever touching an unclean thing again, but I can’t. The fool in me continues to fight for dominance, and every time she wins, I am faced with yet another choice: confess it as sin and forsake it, or wait for God to cut a switch. “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” (I Corinthians 11:31)
“I don’t need to go too deep. I’m not called to full-time service.” The fool lives as if God has no place. He’ll talk time without end about personal finance but he’s never tried God by giving til it hurts. She’ll take every personality test on the internet (Proverbs 18:2) but she’s unwilling to study out what God says she ought to be. He habitually blows off his time with God so he can maintain his great reputation for punctuality at his job. She’ll show up for every service, every activity, every work day at church, but she uncomfortably falls back on generic platitudes if someone else talks about spiritual things in casual conversation.
Um, what game do we think we’re playing? We welcome the Word of God with open arms and then avoid doing anything with it that requires a conscious decision or, God forbid, a change in how we think or live. We have grown so accustomed to thinking along worldly, secular lines, that we say “Amen” at truth and promptly dispose of it so we don’t actually have to do anything about it. If I come away from a church service saying, “Huh, that was good” and nothing in me changes, I am a fool. If the Lord causes a verse to snag my eye while I read His Word and I don’t find a way to immediately apply it, I am a fool. What I’m doing is rejecting what He’s trying to teach me, whether I intended to slap Him in the face or not.
“God has a sense of humor too.” The fool mistakenly assumes that God takes things just as lightly as she does. Contrary to Southern custom, adding a “bless his heart” to the end of a trail of gossip doesn’t negate God’s attitude toward evil speaking. Replacement cuss words don’t fool Him into thinking you weren’t really using His name. Joking about inappropriate things doesn’t make you funny, it proves you’re playing the fool.
While I do believe God has a certain sense of humor, it’s not the worldly cheap-laugh version – throughout His Word He has a very low tolerance for those who blow off His commands, laugh at His ordained preachers and government leaders, and make light of sacred things. I am blessed with a quirky sense of humor, but I have to work at not using it as an excuse for failing to take His precepts seriously.
Biblically speaking, the fool is one who hears a truth from the Word of God and chooses to ignore it. He doesn’t always come out and say so. He can be active in a local ministry and “serve” God til the cows come home. He doesn’t always even realize the heart condition he has until he chooses to examine himself. Psalm 78 is a powerful, convicting glimpse of God’s people who served Him with their mouths but had no heart for Him – “When he slew them, then they sought him… Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.” How great the mercy of God, that even when I have played the fool, He is willing to forgive and help me anyway – yet how much simpler my life could be, if I would just take Him seriously and avoid His chastening!
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing” (Romans 7:18). There is a fool in me who has the potential to dictate my life and ruin it before I ever see it coming. It’s April Fools’ Day – let’s make this the day we finally outsmart ourselves and stop playing the fool with God.