Thursday, September 03, 2015

'Fool' redefined

Usually we take a ‘fool’ to be an unknowdegeable person. A random search for the meaning of ‘fool’ on Google landed me on this definition: ‘a person who acts unwisely or imprudently; a silly person.’ You might have come across quite a number of people (some with earned doctoral degrees from reputed universities) who are foolish in their behaviour. Foolishness is thus not a matter of how much a person know but how a person behaves.
That is closer to the definition that we find in the bible where a ‘fool’ is a person who behaves ignoring God (Psa 14:1). Fools not only deny God but also refuse to learn wisdom that comes from God. In addition to being unteachable they cannot be disciplined (Prov 15:5). So, by refusing to learn but guided by their own ‘wisdom’ they end up in trouble always (Prov 14:3). They cause trouble to others as well, as their behaviour is not in line with the expectations of the society and the standards of God (Psa 53:1).
Though not exclusive, Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 offers a closer look at the concept of ‘fool.’
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words. When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear. (Eccl 5:1-7 ESV).
The fools are characterized by their rash speech. Note that here ‘listening’ is contrasted with the ‘sacrifice of the fools’ (Eccl 5:1-2). Fools can say any thing any time without considering what they are going to say and its consequence. In this particular passage this is connected with worship. The righteous person draws closer to God in worship to hear what God has to say—they are all ears in the presence of God but the fools are ‘all mouth!’ The fools walk in to offer their sacrifices and doesn’t care if God has to tell them anything. Because they are wise in their own eyes.
The rashness also has another danger. The fools makes vows rashly and later discover that they cannot fulfill them. The reason is simple: they did not consider the need and feasibility of their comitment. This rashness is the ticket to destruction: ‘Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands?’ (Eccl 5:6 ESV).
Another characteristic of ‘fools’ is excessive speech. If ‘rashness’ has to do with the speed, excessive speech has to do with the quantity; but both are of vey low quality indeed! The preacher notes that ‘... a fool’s voice (comes) with many words.’ First of all the fool doesn’t consider what he is going to say before he begins his speech. He thinks along the way as the speech progress. So, he has to use a lot of words. Fools try to persuade people not by the power of their words but the amount of their words. Thus superflous speech is not only comes from foolishness it makes a fool more evidently foolish.
Apostle James has summarized this very well in James 1:19: "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger...."

God is still good when things are bad

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