Living Like a Fool

Proverbs 17 SCC 10/25/15


Wisdom is the knowledge and understanding of life’s usual patterns and the skillful application of such to one’s life situations. Solomon wanted this insight developed in the life of his family and extended family. So he explains the content of wisdom in Proverbs, comparing and contrasting this with folly. Here he concentrates on those who violate the knowledge and understanding of life’s usual patterns—this is a fool. They invite mayhem and the need for damage control. This only leads to further destruction and carnage. It is distraction with controlling chaos. The wise attempt to avoid this.



Conflict negates happiness that is directly connected to a loving, peaceful household v 1

Poverty with peace Solomon says is better than prosperity with strife. Having a peaceful, quiet Spartan meal is far better than a sumptuous supply of food for feasting together with conflict. There is no happiness with a troubled household. Things like hatred, strife, divorce, arguments, and resentments in the family will eliminate the possibility for happiness. People often respond to such things with jokes and laughter, making sin sound normal or funny. But it’s all a cover-up. There is no happiness in their hearts. So they attempt to ignore reality with addictions to alcohol, drugs, food, sports, sex, anything, which will dull the senses to the fact they are not really happy. Abundance like full of feasting often brings a deterioration of moral and ethical standards and an increase in envy and strife.

Conflicts must be stopped before they get started and out of control v 14

Here is a proverb of cause and effect. The image is of a small leak, perhaps in a dam, that starts slowly to spurt water; the problem can only get worse. So the advice is to stop it before strife breaks out. This may refer to litigation also with the lesson to stop a quarrel before it gets to court for a legal victory makes a disagreement permanent. Refuse to let an issue fester. It should be droped before a dispute even starts. Have you applied this to your marriage? In your home? At the office?

Contentious arrogant speech creates strife that ends in destruction v 19

Here is a double focus on the one who loves a quarrel and also has raised his door. First this individual is quarrelsome and arrogant loving sin. Because he loves sin it only leads to destruction—what he inflicts upon others as well as what he brings upon himself. He loves sin because of the destruction it produces. This won’t happen by compassion or kindness or prudence so he is not interested in that. Then the raised door or the high gate he erects is figurative for his braggadocio. The door is the mouth and speaks lofty or high things—he brags too much. This naturally pits others against him and causes him to have to prove his bragging is true. This is a downward spiral.

NB: If you live on the planet you have conflicts. Autonomous beings by the very nature of their individual existence will come into conflicts with one another. When another invades your space you have a conflict. Avoiding it or running from it means your being dishonest and in denial. Neither is the path of a biblical peacemaker. Solomon is referring to starting a conflict. Do whatever you can to not start a conflict. But once you have one it must be dealt with not avoided or abandoned. How so?

       Godly people saw conflict situations primarily as a conflict with God not with other people—vertically not horizontally. Joseph was hated by his brothers and jealous of him so they sold him into Egypt. They saw the situation as a conflict between themselves and Joseph. But Joseph looked at the entire scenario as an opportunity to serve God—first with Potiphar, then in prison, before Pharaoh and eventually his brothers. Joseph did not see it as a conflict with them. It was vertical not horizontal (Moses and Pharaoh; David and Saul; Daniel and Satraps).

       The world will always define conflicts horizontally—between you and me politically, religiously, personally, societally, ethnically. Godly people see all conflicts not with another but between their own sin nature and the will of God. So if I hate someone I have a conflict between God and me. If he hates me he has a conflict. If I don’t hate him then only he has a conflict but that conflict is with God even if he does not know it. Now we can face the other person in an entirely different way, with an entirely different set of priorities and objectives. These do not come from an independent value system like win win 7 habits of highly effective people but from God’s Word. I still must deal with the other person but now its done as a function of my obedience to God. Don’t disagree with God about the life situation he placed you in when it includes conflict assuming you can manage the conflict with your self-interests in mind. That ignores God’s Word and will.



Fools promote themselves with empty rhetoric v 7

Here is a description of lofty speech that does not suit the fool. The point is that lofty speech, whether in the form of great claims or arrogant opinions is simply out of character for the fool. Drawing attention to himself his speech swells into empty claims full of hot air. This person is godless and immoral in an overbearing sort of way. Exaggeration could also be part of the expression. In any case, the fool wants to seem bigger, better, badder, than his or her life actually is. In contrast is a ruler with a code of honor to whom truthfulness is almost second nature. The proverb is saying that if fools should not speak lofty things, then certainly honorable people should not lie.

Fools are not teachable v 10

Discipline will benefit the wise but not the foolish. Those who are wise will be impacted personally in such a way that it lasts and they learn from it. However, not even a hundred lashes will make such a lasting impression on the fool. This hyperbole emphasizes the point that while the wise are sensitive and learn readily the thickheaded fool is unresponsive even after the most extreme measures of correction are taken. Those who are teachable will also have understanding. It is as Jesus said: For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away (Matthew 25:29). Those who have understanding will receive more understanding, and fools will lose what little understanding they have. But understanding is also an attitude that can best be instilled in a person over time with long-term exposure. Not so the fool.

Fools cause collateral damage v 12

Which is worse meeting a mother bear with her cubs or meeting a fool engaged in his folly? This emphasizes the collateral damage caused by foolishness. Here we have the word for a stupid fool. The warning is to avoid those who are unwise because of the damage they cause to those around them. Don’t marry a fool. Don’t hire a fool. Don’t form a partnership with a fool. Don’t hang around with a fool. Even if they are not evil, those without wisdom cause collateral damage. Beware! Consider meeting a fool wielding a gun or knife, or driving behind the wheel—how often has the mother bear been less dangerous!

Fools have no desire to obtain wisdom v 16

The fool has no interest in securing wisdom as it should be—by knowledge and understanding of the usual patterns of life and orienting one’s life according to these. What good is the offer of money since what is needed cannot be bought? Actually the fool lacks the intellect to gain wisdom in the first place. He started playing the percentages long ago abandoning wisdom for folly. Some consequences may have caught up to him so he desires to short circuit the process by buying some of this wisdom in hopes that it may get him out of the trouble he is in. One cannot buy wisdom when he needs it. Its only assimilated by knowledge and understanding over time.

Fools cause bitter grief to parents and family v 21, 25

Parents who hoped the child would be a credit to the family and the faith are bitterly disappointed. Two words in v 21 describe the foolish son or daughter as both thickheaded and lacking spiritual perception. The child has neither the knowledge of how life works nor the understanding to put it to use. This requires real objective knowledge. So a wise household is not based on luck, or chance, or religious mysticism. It is based on real things, which usually happen, most of the time, in the real physical world.  However, the science and art of living life is replaced by folly—ignoring this knowledge and understanding. It’s painful and grievous to watch the life of a foolish child.

Fools are preoccupied with their foolishness v 24

We cannot be sure specifically what Solomon had in mind by the ends of the earth. It would include, however, not focusing on the reality of his present situation. A fool will buy lottery tickets because he thinks that he will be lucky. Some day he will get rich by chance. Some day his ship will come in all by itself. So his eyes are on some unrealistic ends of the earth scenario, not his present reality. He lacks any serious concentration unable to fix attention on wisdom wandering from one potential quick scheme to another. He drifts in the limitless sea of uncertainty with a vacant distracted mind.

Fools can appear wise when silence hides their folly v 28

Silence is evidence of wisdom. A wise man is cautious in communication thinking before speaking; considering before talking. Even fools appear wise in silence. At least he or she conceals their folly by keeping silent. But he does not become wise by doing this—he just hides his folly for the moment. The point is that a fool can mimic certain demonstrations that may be wise. But that does not make him wise.



First, do not be a contentious person. Get that chip off of your shoulder. When you know and understand what strife produces, then you will attempt to avoid it at all costs—even personal ones that are hurtful.

Second, reproduce your wisdom by discipling others with the knowledge and understanding you have about the usual patterns of life. That only happens when we intend for it to happen. We have to initiate with others including our disciples and extended family. We cannot pass on our wisdom without deliberately doing so.