Bricks on the Wall

Some Bible opposites are easy to couple. The opposite of night is day, of dark is light, of truth is lies. Some opposites are a bit more creative. For example, the opposite of evil is not always good. When it comes to the way of salvation, the opposite of evil is justification. The opposite of foolishness is not necessarily wisdom considered by itself. The opposite of foolishness is faith and the fear of the Lord, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

When Paul used Psalm 14–about fools who say “There is no God”–in Romans 3 he set the final bricks on the wall of bad news. All have sinned. None have done good. But his entire argument is to convict fools to believe, not to get fools to get smart or to do better in order to be saved.

The gospel of Jesus Christ addresses spiritual corruption with a crucifixion, not with a class or consultation. “Stop being a fool today by following these three simple steps.” No. The path out of foolishness is a burial and a resurrection, yours when you believe and are baptized in Jesus. “We were buried therefore with him in baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

At the Lord’s Table, the opposite of unrighteousness is righteousness, but not our own. The opposite of death is life, but that life is life that someone else gave to us. The opposite of boasting is not silence, it is boasting in the Lord. He is our hope and our salvation. We’d be fools not to believe in Him.

Such a Bone Head

Harsh. Badly behaved. Worthless. Impossible to talk to. These adjectives are used about a character in a well-known narrative, but not about a low class halfwit. They do not describe an independent man but one who received care and kindness from others he didn’t know. They aren’t directed at a man whose wife was cranky and ugly and hard to tell which was worse; his wife was discerning and beautiful.

The man’s name was Nabal. In 1 Samuel 25 David’s men, who had been protecting Nabal’s shepherds, requested provisions from Nabal for a religious feast. Nabal famously and foolishly denied anything to David or his crew, taking the opportunity to express his disapproval of David’s mutiny. “There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters.” Unless Abigail had fixed it, David was readying to let the blood out of Nabal’s thick skull.

Nabal is one of those characters where truth is more striking than fiction. How could a man with a profitable business, with health enough to oversee the shepherding and shearing work, and with a devoted wife who was looking out for his best interests, how could that man be such a bone head? Why would anyone in such a blessed earthly position be so stupid? Because folly is the great spoiler. It doesn’t take anything special to be a fool, and fools spoil everything special.

Solomon said that a little folly is like a dead fly in the perfumer’s ointment (Ecclesiastes 10:4). For some it is the main ingredient.

Out of the Mouths of Fools

The fool loves to talk, loves to hear himself speak, loves to share his opinion. Solomon said as much in Ecclesiastes 10:14 (part of a larger paragraph on what comes out of the fool’s mouth which I preached about yesterday).

A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him?

I hate to love this verse. It’s so accurate, so common, and so upsetting. The fool is verbose, meaning he’s most happy when his mouth is open. A fool multiplies words. He doesn’t just add them, he multiplies. This isn’t the first time in Ecclesiastes Solomon addressed bloviation.

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. (5:2)

The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? (6:11)

The fool’s mouth pours out folly. In particular he delights to declare his convictions on things he has no clue about, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him? Who can predict a man’s future or what will happen on earth after his death? The obvious answer is “No one.” Wise people listen and know their limits; fools babble. They go on as know-it-alls.

Some of the most wordy people are also some of the most arrogant. They’ve so convinced themselves that they know the answers, that they have true knowledge, and no one can convince them otherwise. Yet they have no understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

Ecclesiastes 10:14 is aimed specifically at future-tellers, at those who talk big even though they have no information and no way to get that information. But the application spills over onto all sorts of issues. For example, it fires me up and tires me out reading blogs (or comments on blogs) by people with little to no understanding and little to no humility. They write or talk like the world’s been waiting for them to arrive with the answer. But multiplied words don’t prove their argument, they demonstrate their arrogance.

Out of the mouth of fools come arrogant verbosity. At times like these my mom and Solomon agree: watch your mouth.