I Pity the Fool: Hope for Any Fool

Good Morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here today and today we’re going to take a personality test, of sorts…

Ever take a personality test?  The first one I ever remember taking is the one that used animals – like you were either a Beaver – a Golden Retriever, a Lion or an otter. And I remember feeling rather pleased that I was mostly Otter.

From there – and forgive me if I am a little bit of a buzz kill – it seems like Christians love these kinds of tests – but I took the Myers Briggs -and then the Strength Finders test, and now there’s this enneagram test – and – honestly – any test I’m not sure how to pronounce – I’m not taking it.   And now there are people who are like I’m a nine and my wings are 3 and 4 and I’m like, okay.  I’m an otter!

Well, today in the spirit of personality tests – we’re going to take a test to determine what kind of fool you are.  And now – fair warning – if I do a good job with this test – than what I am promising is that I will at some point likely offend everyone in the room today – at least slightly.  And that’ okay – no one likes to be called a fool.  But the Bible insists we are naturally born fools – and I think it’s good to know what kind of fool we’re naturally inclined to be.

It doesn’t mean you are forever a fool.  In fact – the point of the talk today is to how we can no longer be a fool – but I’m going to start by pointing out four types of common fools.  And if at any time you start feeling offended then that’s a pretty good sign that maybe that type of fool is the type of fool you’re naturally inclined to be.

So I’m likely going to offend you, and if I do offend you then I’m proving my point.  I can’t lose.  Nor win.   

Yes – there is in all of us a natural bend towards a particular type of fool.  So this morning we will look at four types of fool in Proverbs as well as how to overcome the fool within.

Now, last week we discussed the fact that the book of Proverbs was intended to be used as curriculum in a school – they are a collection of wisdom teachings that were meant to be read aloud and discussed in a classroom situation.  The goal was the help these young students become wise.

We mentioned that these proverbs are principles not promises.  They are teachings that guide people toward general principles that are usually but not always true in life – and we used as an example – Proverbs 22:6train up a child in the way he should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.

Our working definition of wisdom has two parts.  Wisdom is the ability to see things for how they really are and then making decisions in accordance with reality.

For example:  If you are unable to see the your financial reality then you will continue to make poor decisions when it comes to how you handle money.

So part of seeing reality is recognizing that we have proclivity towards a certain type of fool.  And so let’s jump in and take our Fool Test.

And I’ll start with this – it’s a picture of a dog.  Look at that dog!  Adorable!  Yes!  But let me tell you something – that dog – it looks like I could sell the Brooklyn Bridge to that dog.

  • That dog looks like the kind of dog that I could write a book that said I found the lost chapter of the Mayan calendar- and it said that there will be a pineapple blood moon this fall and that the world is going to end – and that dog is going to buy that book – he’s going to be like, “Sounds believeable to me.”
  • That dog looks like the kind of dog that gets its news from one source and one source only and believe everything that source says without ever looking at other news outlets to see if there are other views – no – one channel – one website – everyone else can’t be believed – that’s what my one channel of news has told me and so I believe them.  Everyone else is crooked and dumb.
  • That dog looks like the kind dog that reads a bumper sticker that says all religions are the same – and the dog says – must be true – that person I mean put it on their bumper – who cares that no world religion agrees that all world religions are  the same – I just believe that.

So what kind of fool is this dog?  This dog is That dog a simpleminded fool.  The Naïve fool.

Proverbs 1:22 “How long, you simpletons,
will you insist on being simpleminded?

Proverbs 14:15  Only simpletons believe everything they’re told!
The prudent carefully consider their steps.

These people are what we might call gullible.  They believe anything they are told.  They don’t work to discover or vet or learn.  They are easily led  and when it comes to spiritual matters can be easily deceived.

In Matthew 10, Jesus tells his followers that in this world, we are going to need to be as innocent as doves, and yet – as shrewd as snakes.  It’s okay to be harmless – to be guileless – to be simple.   But it’s Jesus vision for us that we are also shrewd.

You know what Shrewd means?  It means to have a sharp view of reality.  To see things for how they really are.

Now again – all of us have a tendency towards one of these kinds of fools – some are simpleminded fools who would rather stick their head in the sand and not have to look at things that require thinking.   But faith requires that we think and not just believe anything we’re told.

God invites us to think critically about how we are living life.  Acts 17 – Paul commends the Berean church because they were critical thinkers.  They checked what Paul was teaching against scripture.  They engaged their minds and engaged reality.

There’s something appealing about this kind of foolishness – just coming home and sticking your head in the sand and not think?  And the world we live in it seems rather determined to fill our brains to the brim with rubbish, lest we one day think…  But to do so is foolishness.

The first type of fool is the simpleminded one.  Naïve and Gullible.

The second type of fool is the Stubborn fool.  Represented by this Mule or Donkey – famous for their stubbornness.

Look at that Mule.  That mule looks like the kind of mule –

  • Jesus himself could appear to him in a dream and tell him – it’s me, Jesus. I created you and loved you and died for you and I want you to follow me – and the Mule would wake up and say, nah.  You almost convinced me Jesus!
  • That Mule – demands to be understood, but spends little time trying to understand others.
  • It talks a lot but asks very few questions.
  • It tries nothing new and cannot bring itself to admitting it was wrong.  In fact, it’s been a very long time since it was wrong about anything.

If the simple-minded fool is too easily influenced – the stubborn fool is unteachable.  Immovable.  Uninfluenced by the coldest of facts.

Proverbs 28:14 Blessed are those who fear to do wrong,
but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble.

The simpleminded fool believes everyone.  The obstinate fool believes no one.

The naïve fool is led into folly too easily.  The stubborn fool obstinately refuses to walk out of it.

The essence of wisdom is being able to see reality – how much flexing is called for here?  And then flexing appropriately.   The Simpleminded is too flexible.

The stubborn are inflexible.

For instance – when it comes to criticism – the naïve fool takes things really hard – criticism can crush them.  But the stubborn fool is either completely offended by correction, or they just ignore it completely.

BY the way – I’ve seen plenty of pastors who are stubborn mules.  I’ve seen quite a few churches who have brayed themselves all the wy to the grave – refusing to see how things really are and how things need to change.

So – let’s stay flexible and teachable Journey.  We’re not above any of these common manifestations of foolishness.

So – what type of fool are you most like so far?  the naïve puppy or the the stubborn mule?

Here’s a third option.  The Selfish cat.  Look at that fat cat – the world exists to make him or her happy.

Look at that cat.  Someone feed me.  Someone pet me.  Someone tell me I’m beautiful!

That cat doesn’t care about others.  It’s completely self absorbed…

Enough about you, says that cat – let’s talk about me!

That cat looks like the kind of cat who would say, “I’ve got a really stressful job and so the weekends are me time and so if you could just not ask me to do anything around here that would be really great.

And by the way – the last couple of times I’ve been to church – you didn’t have the crueler donuts that I really like – and so if you can do something about that, that would be great.

Proverbs 18:1Unfriendly people care only about themselves;
they lash out at common sense.

Fools have no interest in understanding;
they only want to air their own opinions.

As you read through Proverbs you will find many examples of the selfish fool.  The sluggard who doesn’t want to work – the drunk and the glutton or the sexually immoral who lives to satisfy their appetite.

Proverbs spends so much time talking about the dangers of pride and haughtiness that we’re going to take an entire Sunday talking about it in a couple of weeks, so I won’t belabor the point other than to say – it’s foolish to live as if you are God.

You are not a cat!  Stop living like the world revolves around you!

Are we getting close to any of your natural tendencies?  Are you a Naïve fool?  A Stubborn Fool?  A Selfish Fool?

There’s one more fool that Proverbs speaks about – it is the scornful fool.  Or the Mocking fool.  Or the mean fool.  And for that I chose – yet the cat again.

If the Naïve is too easily influenced by criticism, and the stubborn fool is unteachable – watch out for the Mocking fool.  They strike back.

Proverbs 9:7 Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt.

What’s most interesting about this fool is that – while we often are able to spot the foolishness in others who are either Naïve.  Or Stubborn, or Selfish – often time the foolishness of the mocker comes across to us as strength.

They aren’t going to take any gruff from anybody.  They are fighters.  They are ruthless!   Often time they are successful they have money or success even and the result is that many times.

They are snarky.  Ever heard of people who are snarky?  In 2009 author David Denby wrote a book called Snark.  Back then – he observed a snide and mocking tone was becoming more and more prevalent in our country.

It was the kind of language that was intentionally mean and nasty – that aimed not at refuting someone’s position, but at sullying the person’s image.

Opposing views are not treated with respect, or even addressed honestly – instead – we attack the person who has the opinion with snarling disdain.

Many want to blame the internet for our current epidemic of snark – but of the Bible has been warning us for three thousand years that mocking, disdainfulness of other humans is a basic type of foolishness.  And none of us are above the temptation to treat people contemptuously.  Who among us doesn’t relish a good putdown?

Now here are four major categories of types of fools – the Naïve fool, the stubborn fool, the self-centered fool, and the mocking fool. 

Are you seeing your reflection in any of these pools of fools?  I do.  I see myself especially in the last two – maybe the mocker most of all.  I’m not proud of that, but if I were to take this test at the end I think I’d say – I’m a cat and a cat.

No wonder I hate cats so much, I see all the parts of me I don’t like in them!

What are we to do?  What is the answer?  Which brings us to the most important question.  Q: How can we be fools no longer?

And here’s the answer.  Ready?  A: We can’t.  We can’t stop being a fool – but the good news is that we can become a different kind of fool.

The Apostle Paul teaches us this…

1 Cor 118 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.

Paul is traveling around the world preaching the message of the cross.  He is preaching the good news of Jesus.  And so he starts his preaching – I’m here to tell you why I’ve decided that this guy who was executed by the romans a few years ago is God in the flesh.  He died a brutal death on a roman cross, was put into a borrowed grave, rose from the dead and forty days later flew back to heaven and someday he will come back to judge the living and the dead and to make all things new.   And I’m here to convince you to join me in worshipping this executed prisoner god/man.

Now – let’s be fair – that sounded like a lot of foolishness to the world Paul travelled to.

And it sounds like foolishness to many in our world as well.  No doubt in your world – those of you who follow Jesus – there are people in your world who view you as foolish for placing your faith in Jesus.  Right?

The message of the cross is foolishness to many.  What is this message?

We talked about wisdom being the ability to see things for how they really are.

Jesus saw things how they really were.  He knew the true state of our souls-  he knew just how lost we really were – he knew that nothing but direct intervention from God himself would ever be able to rescue us from our folly filled ways.

So Jesus left heaven to come to earth to rescue us.  Jesus died for us so that he might live with us.  And that “with God” life is wildly available to anyone wise enough to receive it.  Wise enough – in touch enough with reality to see we need to be rescued – wise enough to reach out and receive from his nail pierced hands the gift of life – abundant, eternal, and free – available right now by placing our faith in Jesus.

And what does this gospel – this good news – how does it rescue the simple-minded?  You finally see reality as it really is.  You are given God’s word by which you measure the words of others to keep you on the right path – and instead of being crushed by criticism you know that God himself loved you so deeply he died for you.

How does the good news help the stubborn fool?  Finally you have found a shepherd who you can follow.  You no longer need to rely on your own wits.  You have a shepherd who laid down his life for you – surely you can trust him enough to follow him wherever he asks you to go.

How does the gospel rescue the selfish fool?  You are led into a Kingdom so great and mighty you will ever wonder why you so clung so tightly and fought so hard to protect your little kingdom of self.

The gospel humbles the selfish – we were in such bad condition that it took the death of God himself to rescue us – what exactly are we proud about?  What are we boasting about?  nothing but the cross.

How does the gospel save the mocker?  The mean spirited?  The Gospel takes those people the mocker mocks – and lifts them up – the gospel rescues those the mocker holds in contempt and declares those people to be valuable human beings, worthy of dignity and honor.  And as a result the gospel redirects the heart of a mocker toward a life of love, not disdain.

What kind of fool are you?  Unless you are a fool for Jesus. you will never become wise.  1 Cor 3:18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise.