Before we proceed in our study of the person the book of Proverbs calls a fool, we need to consider the warning of Jesus:
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother [some translations say “without cause”] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother “Raca” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matt. 5:22 NIV 1984)
This certainly can make us fearful of calling anyone a fool, as our hearts are deceitful, and we may be wrong. Yet, then, how are we to apply the many Proverbs that describe a fool and warn us to set boundaries with them?
Matthew Henry is helpful in asking us to consider the heart motive in considering that one might be a fool. Is it to protect yourself and others or is it a heart of malice churning out hatred? When we have been hurt by someone, the natural response, says Philip Yancey, is to hurt back, and the supernatural response is to forgive.
But if your heart is longing to discern in order to deal wisely with another, then it seems prudent to consider if you are indeed dealing with a proverbial fool. Jesus tells us that a tree will be known by its fruit. If you see the bad fruit of a fool season after season, then proverbs warn you to protect yourself. We’ll look at some of those warnings this week. I like the image Jan Silvious uses of retreating to your castle when you see a fool coming, pulling up your drawbridge, yet still waving warmly to him from your tower so as not to provoke him. However, if the fool lives in your castle with you, you may need to learn how to “detach” emotionally, which Jan will explain.
One important fact is that a true believer cannot be a fool, for the Holy Spirit is in him producing good fruit. There are many who call themselves Christians who are not. Though only God can see a heart, and we may think a wheat is a tare or a tare is a wheat, if we see enough consistent red flags of a proverbial fool, it is not a sin to draw emotional or even physical boundaries.
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- As a review of last week, what are three important red flags that a true fool will consistently show?
- How have you spied God in your life in the last 24 hours?
Monday: Danger of Hellfire
Jesus talked frequently of hell, and we need to listen. We also need to keep Scripture in context so as not to misinterpret. On the one hand, He tells us we are in danger of hell if we call our brother a fool (Matthew 5:22) and likewise, that God will not forgive us if we do not forgive our brother (Matthew 6:15) Yet we also know that just as good works cannot get us into heaven and bad works cannot keep us out. So, let’s consider this in light of all of Scripture.
4. Read Matthew 5:3-10. Can you see the gospel in Christ’s opening to the Beatitudes? If so, how?
5. Based on the prevailing teaching of Scripture, do our good works get us into heaven and our bad works put us into hell? Explain and give scriptural support.
I think Andrew Peterson’s song is appropriate here:
6. Challenge question: How does Peterson resolve the “apparent contradiction” between the psalm that says only one whose heart is pure can ascend the hill of the Lord and the fact that none of us have pure hearts?
7. How have you seen God in your life in the last 24 hours?
Tuesday: Malice in Your Heart
8. Read Matthew 5:21-22
A. A murderer in the Old Testament was subject to judgment, but how does Jesus go further here?
B. How does the beginning of this passage lend light to the end?
C. How would you explain the “apparent” contradiction between the warning concerning calling your brother a fool, and the warnings of proverbs to help you recognize a fool?
9. Read Ephesians 4:31-32
A. What does the word malice mean? (The word malicious comes from the same root.)
B. What is the opposite behavior of wishing malice according to Ephesians 4:32?
10. Read Proverbs 24:17-20
A. Why, according to verses 17-18 is it foolish to rejoice when your enemy falls?
B. Why, according to verses 19-20 should we not fret about evil doers?
11. What application can you make from today if you have someone that Proverbs calls a fool who is repeatedly hurting you or those you love?
Wednesday: The Dangers Fools Present
While we must forgive those who hurt us, it is not wrong to set boundaries with someone who consistently has the red flags of a fool: is always right, uses anger to control, and trusts, not in God, but in his own heart.
12. What warnings do the following Proverbs give you concerning fools? Share the warning, and, if possible, how you might apply it.
A. Proverbs 13:20
B. Proverbs 14:7
C. Proverbs 17:12
D. Proverbs 17:21 & 17:25
E. Proverbs 26:6
F. Proverbs 26:11
Thursday: What If You Live With A Fool?
It’s a little hard to pull the drawbridge up if you live with your fool: a spouse, a parent, or possibly an adult child. (Little children should not be considered proverbial fools, for Proverbs 22:15 says “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of discipline will drive it from them.”) So what should you do if your cohabiting fool constantly flies off the handle at you berating or baiting you? Watch this video from Jan Silvious and share your comments.
13. What thoughts or comments do you have on “emotional detachment?” Have you ever put this into practice?
14. What did Jesus do when He was being abused, according to 1 Peter 2:23?
Friday: When Can You Divorce a Fool?
What I am about to share is controversial, and I may be wrong, but here is my opinion. In his book, “And Marries Another” by Craig Keener, and also in an article he wrote for Christianity Today, he looks at Jesus’ exceptions for divorce in Old Testament light. Jesus gave two exceptions in which the wronged spouse, because the covenant has been broken, could seek divorce: adultery and abandonment. Adultery is clear, abandonment is not so clear. When have you been abandoned? Is it only when that spouse has physically left you high and dry? Perhaps. But Keener goes back to the laws of Moses which tells a man to provide shelter, marital rights, and protection to his wife. Keener feels that not just physical but constant emotional abuse is a violation of protection, and therefore abandonment. That’s tricky since our hearts are deceitful. But I have advised women who are constantly being verbally abused to consider separation with the stipulation of returning if the spouse is willing to get Christian counseling and bear the fruit of repentance. That tends to either lead to healing or to the refusal of the spouse to get help. If he refuses to get help, I have advised the wronged spouse that he or she may stay separated, drawing up her drawbridge. Can he or she divorce? I’m not sure, but I think possibly, but I know it is not wrong to separate. Often the perpetrator who will not repent, when separated, will initiate divorce or live with another, in which case, Christ frees you on the basis of adultery. Am I being legalistic? Perhaps, but that is what I feel is right in my heart. I’ll be interested in your reactions to Craig Keener.
Here is a video from Craig Keener:
15. Comments and reactions?
16. What is your take-a-way and why?