Monday, April 1, 2019

For Some, April Fool’s Day is a Year-Long Observance

As I started writing this new post, it occurred to me that it would appear on April Fool’s Day. My first thought was that I wish folks were fools only on April 1. But all we need to do is watch the news, read the papers, see what people say on social media – or just go to the supermarket – to find confirmation that’s not true. They’re everywhere, and at times I’ve been counted among them.

Fools and foolishness aren’t inventions of the 21stcentury, of course. The attraction toward folly and aversion for wisdom are as old as humankind. The Bible, with its unvarnished candor, cites many examples – including many of its “star” characters.

Even King Solomon, reputed to be the wisest man who ever lived, was no stranger to foolishness. God clearly commanded kings of Israel not to “acquire great numbers of horses for himself…take many wives for himself…[or] accumulate for himself great amounts of silver and gold" (Deuteronomy 17:15-17). So what did Solomon do? He collected many stables full of horses; he had 1,000 wives and concubines, and he became renowned for his material wealth. Each contributed to his less than stellar finish as king.

Nevertheless, in his collection of proverbs, Solomon wrote repeatedly and eloquently about the foibles of fools. Perhaps he was humbly drawing from personal experience, as well as astute observation.

He doesn’t take long to get to it. In Proverbs 1:7, the king asserted, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Later in the same chapter Solomon warns, “For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them” (Proverbs 1:32). He contrasts that fate in the very next verse, declaring, “But whoever listens to [wisdom] will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

After proceeding to cite many of the benefits of pursuing wisdom in the succeeding chapters, Solomon composes a verbal image of how enticing foolishness can be: “The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way. ‘Let all who are simple come in here!’ she says to those who lack judgment” (Proverbs 9:13-16).

I still remember a literal portrayal of this while traveling in Eastern Europe more than 20 years ago: “women of the street” shouting to get the attention of motorists as they drove past on the highway outside their city.

Solomon writes about foolish speech and behavior: “He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool…. The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment…. A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom” (Proverbs 10:18, 21,23).

The Israelite king devotes nearly an entire chapter of Proverbs to exposing the futility and fatal consequences of foolishness. For instance, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1). Do you know of anyone who could fit that description, whether it applies to their own home and family, or the enterprises in which they’re involved?

A stern warning appears verses later: “Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips. The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception” (Proverbs 14:7-8).

Then we see a contrast between those who strive to do right and make amends when wrong is committed versus those who have no interest in doing so: “Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright…. A wise man fears the Lord and shuns evil, but a fool is hotheaded and reckless. A quick-tempered man does foolish things, and a crafty man is hated” (Proverbs 14:9,16-17).

Wisdom goes a long way toward achieving prosperity, according to Solomon, just as foolishness can shipwreck one’s aspirations: “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. The wealth of the wise is their crown, but the folly of fools yields folly” (Proverbs 14:23-24).

The ancient king has lots more to say about the human blight we call foolishness, but you get the point. Fools delight in wallowing in their own foolishness, while those seeking to be wise diligently pursue wisdom, which starts with humble submission and reverence for God.

So while it’s April Fool’s Day, have fun pulling harmless pranks on your friends. By the way, your shoelace is untied. But if you desire to gain the most from this life, make wisdom a paramount goal.

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