Folly and Contention: A Life Void of Wisdom

Proverbs 26 SCC 1/3/16


The opposite of wisdom is folly. Foolishness is playing the percentages. Folly is attempting to risk the usual patterns of life without losing. Fools believe they can act against what usually happens and still come out ahead. Fools ignore the usual patterns of life; determine to serve their own interests bypassing how things usually work out hoping to gain the advantage. Fools invite disaster, creating chaotic scenarios that require damage control. Fools have many idiosyncrasies among them are being a sluggard and contentious. Solomon characterizes fools and their folly as void of wisdom because their foolishness destroys order and creates chaos. This leads to damage and death.


First, it is never appropriate to honor a fool v 1 and 8. Verse 1 indicates that honor is out of place with a fool. Verse 8 says honoring a fool is not only counterproductive it is absurd. The first comparison of snow and rain coming at inappropriate times of the year—snow in summer and rain at harvest—do not belong together. Respect, advancement, and accolades are incongruent with a fool. This is just the kind of person popular culture wants to honor. Additionally, tying a stone in a sling will only make it dangerous for the thrower. So to honor a fool is absurd because what is intended cannot be accomplished—he will remain a fool no matter the accolades or advancement.

NB: One cannot fix another’s foolishness by overlooking it. It will not simply go away just because one chooses to promote a fool in hopes that he or she will improve. The foolishness is not resolved by elevation. It will simply provide another platform for his or her foolishness to create chaos. A fool may be someone who has excelled at immorality, such as a group of guys honoring one another for their sexual exploits. But it could also be a legitimately talented person who should not be honored because they are a fool. When a fool is awarded, either the award is discredited or the foolishness is overlooked, thus encouraging the idea that it is okay to be foolish if you are creative enough to be talented.

Second, a fool must be controlled by physical force v 3. Solomon says a fool is as difficult to manage as a donkey or horse. Neither will respond to reason but instead they must be driven by whip or bridle and controlled by the rod. Discipline will even help those without understanding do the right thing. Some people are fools and will always be fools. These people will not understand the truth about life so as to acquire wisdom. But discipline can even help them. Answers do not help because they have no understanding to comprehend them. But discipline can save them from disaster if it can be imposed.

NB: Unfortunately, fools can create painful situations for themselves and others that violate dignity and respect. Fools usually do not respond to reason and appeals to rational logic often have no influence. Physical punishment or physical force may be the only alternative when a fool is engaged in his or her foolishness.

Third, don’t stoop to a fool’s level of thinking v 4-5. In v 4 one who responds to a fool appears like a fool. In v 5 rebuking a fool will discourage him from thinking too highly of himself. To get into an argument with a fool at his level of argumentation will only make one look foolish too. The point is that while one should never lower himself to that of a fool, there are times when the lesser evil is to speak out rather than be silent.

NB: A fool may want to cheat on a test, steal some money, or verbally abuse someone. If one argues that he might get caught cheating or there is not enough money to make it worthwhile or that physical abuse would be better than verbal abuse, then you participate in that foolishness and are foolish too. One has placed no restrictions on the fools’ foolishness or placed any value judgment against it. One has simply suggested that there might be a better way to be foolish. On the other hand, it is appropriate to expose the fool’s foolishness for what it is—stupid, out of bounds, against the usual patters of life.

Fourth, fools are unreliable as messenger’s v 6. In this case to use a fool as a messenger is to invite trouble. This is in contrast to the faithful messenger of 25:13 who is reliable and can be counted upon to deliver the message without distortion or delay. The image conveys that sending a fool on a mission is not only of no help—it is like the sender trying to take it himself by walking the distance without feet. ‘Drinking violence’ means the message undelivered will have injurious consequences. The information will not make it to the recipient.

NB: It is better not to send a message in the first place than to have a fool carry it. In the end the situation will only worsen without knowledge of the contents or information delivered in a timely manner. This could be devastating in combat or business or managing conflict or answering a delicate situation.

Fifth, fools cannot apply wisdom v 7 and 9. In v 7 wise words, here in the forms of Proverbs, fall on deaf ears. In v 9 fools are intellectually and spiritually unfit to understand and use wisdom. Their world is chaos. A lame mans legs are useless to him; they hang down thus preventing him from going too far. A fool cannot implement wise words. They are unintelligible to him and cannot be used correctly or profitably. Like a drunkard inflicting damage to himself waving a thorn bush around dangerously unable to handle it properly, so a fool is ill-equipped to utilize wise words and thus inflicts himself.

Sixth, hiring fools is dangerous v 10. Hiring just anybody, either a fool or a passer-by will only produce indiscriminate wounds, chaos, and danger. It’s like having an archer shooting without aiming. Carnage is created all around and everyone is in danger.

NB: The point is that indiscriminate hiring gives ample opportunity for incredible damage to be done. That damage will be random but provocative and possibly costly. It is not wise to hire a known fool just to try to stabilize him or her unless the checks and balances are severe.

Seventh, fools repeat their chaotic ways v 11. The point is that no matter how many times a fool is warned, he never learns, not even from experience—like a dog returning to his vomit—he continually repeats his folly. This idea is debasing and places the fool in a irreparable position. His path is set and apart from radical intervention, there is nothing else for him but perpetual repetitious chaos.

Eighth, one who thinks he is wise is more helpless than a fool v 12. Actually a fool is better off than one who is wise in his own eyes. Self conceit and pride blinds one to his or her sense of need. At least it may still be possible for a fool to come to terms with his foolishness. Life can catch up to him or her and provide enough pain to force correction. It is nearly impossible to curb self-conceit. We are born and bred to think too highly of ourselves.

NB: Fools are difficult to reform and if a fool is not disciplined, corrected, and controlled, they cannot stop the carnage they create. Their propensity for chaos makes damage control the only alternative.


First, sluggards use bizarre excuses to avoid work v 13. In this case he avoids even leaving his house with the absurd excuse that a lion is roaming loose. These extreme excuses to avoid work are ridiculous. Any kind of news to get him or her out of work will do.

Second, sluggards do not like to get out of bed v 14. Sluggards are like a door turning in its hinges. The door moves but goes nowhere. So the sluggard tossing in bed seems anchored to it just like the door on hinges. He or she is going nowhere.

Third, sluggards are too lazy to eat v 15. Here is the picture of a lazy person so indolent that he is starving because he is too lazy to feed himself. He does not have enough energy to satisfy his hunger and so his arms and hands are unusable.

Fourth, sluggards are filled with self-conceit v 16. In his own opinion he is wiser than any number of people he knows. He thinks he has life all figured out and has chosen the wisest course of action but he is basically lazy.

NB: Lazy people have no valuable desires. The desire of the sluggard is simply to do nothing. What makes a sluggard a sluggard is that he has no good desires. There is nothing worthwhile that motivates him to get out of bed in the morning. He is adrift in life and sees nothing desirable enough to work for. So he ends up working hard at coming up with excuses to not do productive work.


First, one who meddles in someone else’s quarrel is asking for trouble v 17. Like grabbing a dog by the ears it’s dangerous to inject oneself in another’s quarrels. One cannot complain when he or she gets hurt.

Second, it’s dangerous to deceive someone out of jest v 18-19. The point is that one will hurt people while thinking his humor was only in good fun. The humor is in bad taste and has done its damage.

Third, quarrels should be prevented not encouraged v 20-21. In v 20 one should prevent a quarrel by restricting gossip upon which it depends. In v 21 quarrelsome people start fights and pile fuel on the fire.

Fourth, anger is connected to a lack of understanding and therefore a lack of wisdom v 22-24. The quick-tempered person as a fool cannot rule his own spirit. Animals display anger with fear. But a man has angry contentions because he lays up deceit in his heart.

Fifth, those who cause anger, hatred, and contentions will be found out v 25-28. Trouble causers will always be found out. They always think they can cover it up with some sanctified sounding reasons, but before long, people figure them out. As in everything else, there are no secrets (Mark 4:22).