Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26)
Have you ever felt sympathy for the poor soul caught unaware by the jumbotron? You know this person would have behaved quite differently had they known their celebrity debut was imminent. For this mere five seconds, they may have chosen to stay awake or to consume the hot dog in several bites as opposed to one. Internally, you can’t help but cringe for the chap who was made to look a fool.
You’re also instantly grateful it didn’t happen to you.
Foolishness and Culture
There seems to be an innate sense within each one of us that despises the feeling of appearing foolish. I’ve observed this in each one of my children while they stomp off after being pranked by an older child. Young as they may be, they know it was their intelligence that was attacked.
No matter the age, no person wants to look as though they are not as wise as their peers. Constantly fighting the scourge of pride, foolishness is a direct blow to our gut.
We can be thankful, as Christians, that we are never really fools since we are united to God the Father through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirits gives us a new heart so we can hear true wisdom when it calls out. Though not everything is known to us, we have the blessing of the written Word. What a relief to know we will never be a fool in God’s eyes while following Jesus unless we happen to keep worldly wisdom in our back pocket.
Consider these three examples from Scripture. Were they fools?
The Worldly Wisdom of Jonah
Consider the prophet Jonah—why might Jonah have initially run from the Lord when told to go to Nineveh and preach? We know that the city was full of wickedness (Jonah 1:2). Jonah’s life could have easily been taken given the city’s cruel reputation. The prophets continually preached to stubborn Israel but were reluctant to bring the Gentiles to God.
The Ninevites were enemies of Israel and deserving of punishment. Jonah, considering that this wicked city might be blessed with the Lord’s grace and compassion, ran hoping for the city’s calamity (Jonah 4:1-3). Jonah’s foolishness is completely revealed when God relented in punishing Nineveh. The city repented and Jonah, a prophet who should have rejoiced, wished to die.
Jonah was viewing the situation through his fleshly ideas of wisdom and justice, judging God’s will as foolishness.
The Christ-Centered Wisdom of Mary
Here’s a different “fool” in Scripture: Imagine watching Mary anoint Jesus’s feet with perfume (John 12:1-8). A year’s worth of wages is vanishing before your eyes. The dense scent in the room is a persistent reminder of Mary’s lavishness.
Were you present, you would have then observed Judas asking Jesus if Mary’s actions were wise? Judas offers the suggestion that this money could have been given to the poor.
What ideas would have run through your head? Would you have judged Mary’s act as foolish or wise?
Our Example in Christ
It can be easy to forget that the Savior we serve was once mocked (Matthew 27:27-31). Beaten, stripped naked, spat upon, and publicly hanged on a cross, Jesus willingly endured suffering and the appearance of foolishness that we might be glorified with him.
The chief priests, the elders, and the scribes all made him out to be a fool for what he claimed to be:
“[Jesus] saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matthew 27:42)
Worldly wisdom said that Jesus’s death proved he was not the Son of God. Jesus was made to be a fool. But what the soldiers designed for shame, God used to tear the veil and bring fruition to his promises.
If you were there, would you have judged Jesus’s death as a proof of his foolishness?
Where Wisdom is Found
These questions are written not to point fingers but to raise awareness. Where does wisdom come from? The world, or Christ?
If you’re unprepared to appear foolish to the world, to take this potential gut punch, you’ll exchange peace for worry, willingness for hesitancy, obedience for disobedience, and trust for doubt. Instead of sacrificing whatever material goods are in question, you’ll be sacrificing eternal rewards.
To continue placing value in our pocket-edition wisdom, we are attempting to serve two masters, which is impossible (Matthew 6:24).
One Blessing of Fleshy Wisdom
There is at least one blessing in the fleshly wisdom that rears its ugly head—it can easily point out the impurities of our hearts. If we take a moment to ask ourselves why we are hesitating in a commission of the Lord, we can find the areas God desires to prune.
When Mary poured out the perfume, it was Judas’s greed that pestered him. When Jonah ran, it was his hatred that fueled his rebellion.
Most of us are familiar with 1 Corinthians 3:19, “For the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight.” Often this verse is assumed as simple in application because of the frequency in which it’s presented.
However, consider our previous examples—Judas was a disciple of Christ, Jonah was a prophet. If we forget we have an enemy and stop reading the Word of God, we may become confused when the need for obedience in a difficult situation arises. If we struggle with pride, these decisions may be especially difficult if they appear foolish to the world.
Stay Focused on God’s Word
Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Part of having a fear of the Lord means we know to stay focused on God’s word for our wisdom. We must set our hearts on things eternal and set aside the world’s opinion of us. While the world was declaring Jesus to be a fool, God was handing him all authority in heaven and on earth.
Do not be deceived into feeling shame while imitating Christ, but instead rejoice in the faith he has given. Let us consider it the ultimate compliment when the world considers us fools for serving Jesus.