When we think about the characteristics of the foolish, we automatically think to ourselves, “Oh thank goodness, this is about someone else, not about me!”
However, every one of us has demonstrated the characteristics of a fool at some time in our life, especially when we were children, as the Scriptures [the Holy Bible] point out: Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15a).
Hopefully as we grow up, as we mature and become responsible, we begin to avoid the characteristics of the foolish. As we begin to gain wisdom, we put away our childish ways:
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1Corinthians 13:11)
As a responsible adult, we ought to be learning the great benefits of wisdom — learning that wisdom is something to earnestly seek and possess. Yet putting away childish ways is not easy for any of us. Moments of foolishness happen to all of us.
But thankfully, there is a pathway of restoration, wisdom, and maturity by turning our heart to the Creator of all things, the God of the Bible, Yahuwah Elohim [the Hebrew name for the LORD God]. We will discuss this pathway below.
As we grow up and mature, our instruction in wisdom should include the warnings of what the foolish are like. When we know the characteristics of a fool, we can then seek to avoid those things in our behaviour.
In this writing we will look very briefly at only 5 of the traits listed in the Bible (the Word of God) that mark someone as foolish.
#1. The Foolish Hate Instruction
One foundational characteristic of fools is their hatred of instruction:
The fear of Yahuwah [the LORD] is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? (Proverbs 1:22)
A fool has no delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own opinion. (Proverbs 18:2)
As the above Scriptures reveal, the foolish hate four things:
If we are to avoid being foolish, and hope to gain the above qualities, we must begin with instruction. But the foolish scorn and despise instruction — so they cannot gain wisdom, knowledge, or understanding. Thus we see that our willingness to receive instruction is the crucial key that allows us to avoid having the characteristics of the foolish.
Notice in the Proverbs 1:7 passage above, that the word translated “instruction” is the Hebrew word ‘musar,’ (Strongs # 04148), which has multiple meanings. This word ‘musar’ also has the meaning of “chastisement, correction, discipline, or rebuke” (Proverbs 3:11; Proverbs 15:10), all of which are necessary components of instruction. We thus understand that fools also hate chastisement, correction, discipline, and rebuke.
None of us enjoys chastisement, correction, discipline, or rebuke! But if we are foolish, then we will not be able to receive and benefit from these vital parts of our instruction. These things are basic elements of what it means to train up a child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6 ). These are the actions that loving parents utilize in order to instruct, and to release their child from foolishness.
If we want to avoid this foolish characteristic of hating the correction and discipline necessary for instruction, then we must begin to cultivate a teachable heart. And how do we do that? First, we need to recognize our hatred of instruction, and turn away from this haughty, evil attitude. Second, we must begin to examine ourselves, and seek to avoid this prideful, selfish way of hatred.
As we examine ourselves, we can ask God to help us to adjust our ways daily. We can begin to make conscious efforts to receive and love instruction, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. These adjustments in our attitudes and behaviour will increase our discernment of what God defines as good and evil. Also helpful, as we saw in The Key to Gaining Understanding, Yahuwah gives us a very clear instruction for how we gain understanding: depart from evil.
#2. The Foolish Are Full of Words
A fool is a constant talker, making little effort to listen to others:
… a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words. (Ecclesiastes 5:3b)
A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him? (Ecclesiastes 10:14)
A rod of pride is in the mouth of a fool, but the lips of the wise shall keep them. (Proverbs 14:3)
The tongue of the wise uses knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools pours out foolishness. (Proverbs 15:2)
Many of us have encountered people who seem to talk, talk, talk. Someone who talks constantly has little desire to receive input from others. Often it happens that the one who talks incessantly is full of trivial conversation and they usually end up with more troubles. This excessive talking is one of the consequences of one who hates instruction and wisdom.
This babbling characteristic of the foolish is really a very prideful trait because much talking reveals an attempt to be superior over others. If we want to avoid this foolish characteristic then we must begin to cultivate a quiet and listening attitude, and begin to restrain our selfish desire for the attention of others by our constant talk. As we saw in Quietness: Cultivating the Hidden Person of the Heart, a quiet, listening disposition helps to nurture a steadiness of temperament, a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, and also helps us to avoid problems (Proverbs 21:23).
#3. The Foolish Are Often Angry and Reckless
Sadly a fool is unreasonably quick to become angry:
Be not hasty in your spirit to become angry: for anger lodges in the heart of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
A wise man fears, and departs from evil: but the fool rages, and is confident. (Proverbs 14:16)
He who is soon angry acts foolishly, and a man of wicked plots is hated. (Proverbs 14:17)
A fool’s lips enter into arguments, and his mouth calls for strokes. (Proverbs 18:6)
As the above Scriptures teach us, being quick to become angry is the reaction of fools. Anger and contention reveal an impatient, arrogant spirit. All of us have experienced that irritated, angry feeling that can burst forth from us quick as a flash. Reckless arguments are often the sad result. This foolish characteristic requires that we cry out to Father God for His intervention, just at the moment we feel that impatient, angry feeling rising up in us (Psalms 46:1).
If we want to avoid this prideful characteristic of anger, we must begin to pray for a patient spirit (Ecclesiastes 7:8b). Patience is a precious and rare jewel, and the display of an excellent character! Patience is the wonderful expression of humility and maturity. Those who are patient are often very wise. As we saw in Patience: the Forgotten Virtue, things in life go much better in every way, for us and for those around us, if we can learn to be patient in spirit!
#4. The Foolish Trust in Their Own Heart
This characteristic reveals itself in the saying, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, I’ve already made up my mind!” This is the proverbial fool, who trusts in his own heart, believing that his way is the right way:
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkens unto counsel is wise. (Proverbs 12:15)
He that trusts in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walks wisely, he shall be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26)
There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. (Proverbs 14:12)
Do we know people like this? They have made up their mind, and their opinion is set in concrete; they have closed off any possibility of receiving further input and instruction. Their own opinion, their own way, seems to them to be the only good and acceptable way. This is another consequence of hating instruction and knowledge.
Fools are determined to trust in their own heart because, as they believe, their own way is right. However God warns us that men’s hearts are deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). We cannot always rely on what our heart may be telling us. But the foolish refuse to listen to any input or counsel or facts that differ from their opinion or understanding.
It is the ‘high’ regard we place on our own thoughts, our own imaginations, and our own opinion, that often lead us to refuse any consideration of differing opinions, input, and counsel. The foolish treat differing opinions or counsel as trivial, petty, or offensive. This kind of attitude is very dangerous and deceptive!
If we cling to our own ways, to what ‘seems to be right’, shutting out and resisting any discussion on a matter, then ultimately, as God’s Word points out, we can become a backslider in heart, and our pathway can become spiritually dark:
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: (Proverbs 14:14a)
The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walks in darkness…. (Ecclesiastes 2:14a)
… wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it. (Matthew 7:13)
So how can we guard against such a stubborn, prideful way of thinking? First we need to recognize that this foolish characteristic is a spiritual stronghold of pride. Pride is a darkness that tends to prevail, and periodically overtake, everyone. No one is exempt from the destructive nature of pride. But as we saw in Turning From Darkness to Light, there is one phrase in the Scriptures that we ought to memorize and lodge deep within our heart: “Do not think more highly of yourself than you ought to think!” (Romans 12:3)
Thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought, is at the heart of pride, and is the cause of many arguments, contentions, and turmoil (Proverbs 13:10; Proverbs 16:18)! Everyone knows that a prideful, arrogant spirit will result in sorrow — sorrow for ourselves and for others.
If we want to avoid this dangerous characteristic then we must begin to earnestly seek Yahuwah Elohim [the LORD God] for an honest and humble spirit. We must begin to make the decision [frequently] to be humble of heart, attitude, and mind. We need to acknowledge our own arrogance and come down from our high-mindedness. In humility, we must begin to take the necessary steps to repent of our prideful attitudes and behaviours, and begin to pray for a teachable heart.
#5. The Foolish Say There Is No God
This characteristic is the very essence of what describes a fool:
The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good. (Psalms 14:1)
Those who have decided that there is no God have consistently forced themselves to ignore their conscience. Our conscience is God’s divine provision planted deep inside us, to urge us and prod us toward His Truth and His ways. When we ignore our conscience, we become dishonest with ourselves, and can enter into willful denial of Truth.
In today’s vernacular, ignoring our conscience is ‘silencing the inner critic’. This is like applying a hot iron to our inner voice, which can ultimately ‘sear our conscience’ (1Timothy 4:1-2). When we ignore our conscience, we reduce our sensitivity to God’s Holy Spirit, which is always whispering to us to keep God’s Truth, His righteous standards and His ways.
A truly ‘seared conscience’ is evidenced by a heart that has hardened itself against receiving correction, counsel, or adjustment, both inwardly and outwardly. A seared conscience will result in a darkened heart having the three chilling and forbidden H‘s — Hardened, Haughty, Horrid. Such a heart is on the pathway that leads downward to the depths of darkness and deception. The end result of continuing on this path is to become the fool whose heart has no fear of God, who says there is no God (Psalms 36:1; Proverbs 28:14)!
When we choose to deny God and resist His Truth, we are opposing and resisting the very One who gave us our ability to choose, and our ability to argue and resist. Yahuwah [the LORD] holds our life, even our very breath, in the palm of His hand! The times of our life are in God’s hands (Psalms 31:14-15a; Proverbs 16:9; Luke 12:5)!
All of us, at some point in our life, have been stubborn, self-willed, and disobedient toward God (Titus 3:3). But our Creator — who is ALL-Mighty and knows ALL things — has given every one of us the ability to choose and make decisions, and to do whatever we please. Sadly, it is a tragic fact that many people choose to do things that are dishonest, foolish, wicked, and unrighteous.
So how can we avoid this most foolish of characteristics?
First we must be as King David who humbled himself and honestly considered his ways, and then realized that his ways were doing him no good! After thinking on his ways, David decided to turn from his own ways, and turn to God’s ways (Psalms 119:59-60). This example of David is called repentance, and it is the only pathway God has given us to bring us into an enlightened understanding of our true condition, and of our responsibility to Yahuwah Elohim [the LORD God].
The Pathway of Restoration, Wisdom, and Maturity
The one pathway of restoration, wisdom, and maturity that God has given us is the pathway that will deliver us from our foolish ways. It consists of three simple steps of repentance, as we discussed in Only The Wise Shall Understand.
The first and most essential step for receiving deliverance from our foolishness, is to believe the written Word of God [the Bible]. We must each arrive at the decision to believe that the Bible truly is the WORD of the Living, Eternal, ALL-Mighty, Invisible God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things:
By the Word of Yahuwah [the LORD] were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. (Psalms 33:6)
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2Timothy 3:16)
Yahuwah Elohim, the LORD God, the God of Truth, the great King over all the earth, is bigger, smarter, and more powerful than you and me! Yahuwah’s abilities are far above human abilities! He is The Purest, The Most Holy, The Most Righteous, Most Powerful, and Most Brilliant Person in ALL the universe! There is NONE like Him! He is the Creator of the universe. And He is the Creator of you — your spirit, your soul, and your body.
Yahuwah Elohim is unlimited in His abilities, and He is infinitely superior to all human wisdom and reasonings! He is invincible. He is irresistible. He is immutable. He is immortal. He inhabits eternity. Heaven is His throne, the earth His footstool! (Jeremiah 10:10; Isaiah 45:21b-22; 1Timothy 1:17)
Because Yahuwah is all-knowing and all-powerful, then acknowledging Him and fearing Him ought to be our automatic response to Him (Proverbs 3:5-7). He knows everything about us — our past, our present, our future. And, He has diligently and carefully provided us with His Words [the Bible] to reveal His great love for us, as a loving Father loves His own precious children.
If we truly desire to avoid foolishness and be among the wise, then the second step is to humble ourselves by earnestly seeking and receiving God’s Son, Yahushua Messiah [the Hebrew name for Jesus Christ], who shed His blood, giving Himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1John 2:1-2). We must humble ourselves by talking to the heavenly Father, in the name of His Son, and admit our great need for His forgiveness, His wisdom, and then begin to study His Word for ourselves! We discussed this step extensively in the article Good News.
The third step is that we must begin to learn and obey what Yahuwah has told us in His Word, the Bible. It is a Biblical principle, that what we ‘do’ illustrates and confirms what we ‘believe.’ And so our obedience to His Word becomes a display of our belief.
But in order to truly obey His Word, we must humble ourselves every day, asking God frequently to give us a teachable heart, a heart willing to read, receive, and obey Father’s instructions and corrections from His Word. With His help, little by little, we will begin to gain an understanding of His ways, and we will begin to avoid our own foolish ways (see Psalms 107).
Avoiding the characteristics of the foolish ought to be the desire of everyone. None of us want to be foolish! All of us want to behave with wisdom, honesty, and integrity!
A most compelling reason for avoiding foolishness and being counted among The Wise is the inescapable fact that one day we will be held accountable for our actions and words. There is a day coming soon when each one of us will stand before the righteous judgment seat of Messiah, and answer for all our actions and words, good and bad.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that which he has done, whether it be good or bad. (2Corinthians 5:10)
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works. (Matthew 16:27)
God is very aware of who the wicked are and who the righteous are. He looks upon every one of us! None of us can hide from Yahuwah. He sees all we do, and He weighs carefully the thoughts and motives of our heart. And one very important day, He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, “for God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14; see also Isaiah 3:11).
The counsel and eternal plans of Yahuwah will stand firm, throughout all generations, regardless of anyone’s ignorance, disobedience, or sinfulness. He sees the wicked foolishness more clearly than we do, and yet He permits it. Why? Because He has given us the ability to choose what we do!
But ultimately, in His perfect timing, in the appointed day, the King of the universe will over-ride the foolish behaviour of the human race, and everyone will see the divine justice of God. The sovereign purposes of Yahuwah Elohim will prevail! (Isaiah 14:24; see also Isaiah 46:8-10)
All of Yahuwah’s works are truthful, and His ways are right. And those who walk in foolish pride, He is able to humble. (Daniel 4:37).
Therefore, let us remember these five characteristics of the foolish, and learn God’s warnings, so that we can avoid such behaviour. Let us learn the fear of the LORD [Yahuwah], and earnestly seek to be among the company of the five Wise Virgins, whose obedience revealed their belief, which belief granted them entrance into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son (see Matthew 7:22-23; Matthew 25:1-13).
- Acquiring a Teachable Heart
- The Key to Gaining Understanding
- Quietness: Cultivating the Hidden Person of the Heart
- Patience: The Forgotten Virtue
- Turning From Darkness to Light
- Enlightening the Eyes of Our Understanding: 5 Steps
- Good News! – 3 Truths to Having Peace With God
- 9 Truths About the Bible
- Characteristics of the Wise Virgins-Part 1
- The Wisdom of the Fear of the LORD
- Unite My Heart to Fear Your Name
- Receiving God’s Mercy: Step 3