A Fool

There are some words in the English language that always seem to evoke a negative response when we hear them.  One of these words is “fool.”  If we hear it applied to another, we will either think poorly of that person, or, if it is applied to a friend, we will rush to that person’s defense.  If we hear it applied to ourselves, we are likely to take offense and respond indignantly.  There are very few instances in which we let this term pass without reaction.

This seems to be true no matter what language one uses.  In the scriptures there are several words in the Hebrew language, and in the Greek language, that are translated by the English word “fool.”  One of the Hebrew words is nabal, which means “senseless.”  This is the word that was used by David in Psa. 14:1, where he said, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”  This word was also the name of the man who refused to give aid to David and his men in 1 Sam. 25:1-12.  When his wife, Abigail, learned of this affront, she took provisions to David and his men in order to keep them from taking vengeance on her husband.  In 1 Sam. 25:25 she told David, “Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless man, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he.  Nabal is his name and folly is with him, but I your maidservant did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent.”

In the New Testament there are two words that are translated “fool.”  One of these is moros, from which the English word “moron” is derived.  Jesus used this word in Mt. 5:22 when he said that the one who said, “You fool” to another would be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.  This word means “stupid,” or “dull.”  The Lord used another word in Lk. 12:20, when He told the parable about the rich man who tore down his barns to build bigger barns.  In the parable, God said to this man, “You fool!  This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?”  The Greek word in this place is aphron, which means “without reason.”

It is important to notice that none of these words refer to one’s mental capabilities.  Even though we sometimes hear the word “moron” used to speak of one with diminished mental faculties, this is not inherent in the words in the original languages.  What we do see consistently present in all of these words is the idea of a lack of sense with regard to the realities of life.  In other words, a fool, as defined by the scriptures, is one who refuses to believe something that is obviously true.

This is certainly the case in David’s use of this word in Psa. 14:1.  Only a fool refuses to believe in the existence of God.  The natural universal and everything in it shows the unmistakable imprint of God’s hand.  This is such obvious evidence that Paul said that there is no excuse for not believing in God (Rom. 1:20).  One has to be “senseless” to look at the physical realm and conclude that it just happened by accident.

This lack of sense, or reason, was the problem with the rich man in the parable.  He refused to honor God for the blessing of abundance that he had received.  He was a fool because he took no thought of his eternal destiny.  This is the issue with many today who refuse to believe the plain teaching of scripture with regard to salvation, the church and acceptable worship.  God’s commands on these subjects are clearly and simply stated in the scriptures so that all may understand them and comply with them.  Jesus said that those who do the will of the Father will enter heaven (Mt. 7:21).  Only a fool will ignore this warning.  Don’t be a fool.  Obey the Lord’s will.

No Worthless Thing

Psalm 101 is a psalm of David, the beloved king of Israel.  In this psalm David extols the virtue of living in a blameless way.  In order to do so, David speaks of focusing on those things that contribute to a blameless life.  At the same time, he speaks of removing from one’s sight anything that will hinder this quest.  A particularly powerful statement of this last aspect is v. 3.  There David says, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not fasten its grip on me.”

Depending on the English version that one uses, one of several different words may appear where the NASB uses the word “worthless.”  The KJV and NKJV use the word “wicked.”  The NIV uses “vile.”  The ASV (1901) and NRSV use “base,” and the HCSB uses “godless.”  Each of these words accurately communicates the meaning that David intended in this statement, but the Hebrew word he used is even more powerful than all of these English words.

The root of the word used by David in v. 3 is belial, which refers to something of no value and is often used in the Old Testament with reference to the idols and false gods of the pagan nations that surrounded Israel.  It was also used in an idiomatic phrase that denoted men of dubious character.  That phrase is “sons of belial,” which appears many times in the Old Testament text.  Some English translations use this phrase in the English text, but others, like the NASB, use the word “worthless” for this Hebrew idiom.

The point to be noted here, though, is that something to which the word belial is applied has no godly value.  Men in the Old Testament who were so described were men typically without honor or morals, or who would do anything for pay.  Such men often served as false witnesses when an evil plot was being hatched against one of God’s prophets or against some righteous man.

In David’s desire to be everything that God wanted him to be, he committed himself to not place anything of this sort before his eyes.  Instead, he wanted only to see and to know those things that would make him more righteous and godly.  His exclamation in v. 4 that he would know no evil is an expression of this commitment.  In David’s own way he was stating the well-known modern proverb, “Garbage in, garbage out.”  He knew that whatever he placed within his heart would come out in his actions.  Therefore he resolved not to allow any ungodly thing in.

We know that David sometimes struggled with this commitment.  A case in point was his sin with Bathsheba.  This was an instance in which he allowed a “worthless” thing to come before his eyes and it led him to commit adultery and murder.  Bathsheba was bathing when David saw her, but instead of turning away from her nakedness, he dwelt upon it, lusted and committed his terrible sin.

In application to our time, this principle still stands.  Whatever we place within our hearts will be borne out in our lives.  With our modern technology we can place before our eyes all kinds of images and information.  The world around us is full of worthless things in music, the movies, television, radio, books, magazines, and the internet.  God’s grace is great and we have no hope without it, but we are warned not to sin so that grace may abound (Rom. 6:1, 2).  Therefore, we must constantly remember the danger of worthless things.  If our goal is to live a blameless life before our God, we must set no worthless thing before our eyes.

Turn or Burn

Short, pithy statements like the one above are the typical fare of bumper stickers.  They are quickly read and usually make an impression on the reader.  They may or may not convey some useful or appropriate message, but they are generally remembered.  They also tend to evoke strong reactions from those who read them.  For example, some who read the title above will assume that the words to follow will be harsh and judgmental.  Having made this assessment, they will judge the message unworthy of their attention because they are certain it will be judgmental.

We live in a world that wants us to believe that intolerance is the greatest evil on the planet.  In the name of this philosophy, we are being pressured to accept all kinds of variant lifestyles and behaviors and to accord them equal status with the long-established norms of societal conduct.  Arguments in favor of tolerance are made on the premise of fairness or civil rights, as though any kind of intolerance is bigoted or oppressive.  Thus, if one dares to say, for example, that abortion or homosexuality is wrong, it has to be because he hates women and hates homosexuals.

Such arguments purposely ignore two very important facts.  The first is that the Bible is the one and only objective standard for our conduct in life.  Jesus said it will judge us at the end of time (Jn. 12:48).  The fact is that God’s word specifically condemns the shedding of innocent blood (Prov. 6:16-19), a category into which abortion certainly falls, and it specifically condemns homosexuality (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Rom. 1:24-27, 32).  Society is not at liberty to change this truth, no matter what its motives for doing so might be.

Second, these arguments ignore the real meaning of love.  Society wants us to believe that the only way to show love for another is to be tolerant of his beliefs and actions, no matter how outrageous they may be.  (It is interesting to note, however, that proponents of this philosophy are generally hatefully intolerant of Christian beliefs and practices.)  The truth about love is that it does what is best and right for all concerned in every circumstance of life.  In Rom. 13:10 Paul said that love does no wrong to a neighbor.  In 1 Cor. 13:6 he said that love rejoices with the truth.

When we take these facts into account, we must not fail to speak out in warning to those whose conduct is preparing them for condemnation.  In Rev. 21:8 the scripture says, “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolators and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”  All those who live in disobedience to God’s word are destined for eternal punishment.  Tolerating their behavior, without warning them of the danger that lies ahead, is not love; it is, in fact, the harshest form of hatred.

In Ezk. 33:11 God said, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.  Turn back, turn back from your evil ways!  Why then will you die, O house of Israel?”  God Himself calls on the wicked to turn back or burn in the lake of fire, where the wicked will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev. 20:10).  God does not wish for any to go there, but His justice and righteousness demand that the wicked be punished.  If we truly love our neighbors we will continue to warn them of the dangers of sinful conduct.  We will continue to warn them to turn or burn.

A View Toward Eternity

We sometimes speak of a certain kind of person as not being able to see beyond the end of his nose.  Ordinarily, this statement refers to one who is self-centered and selfish in all his actions.  He appears to be incapable of, or at least unwilling, to consider anyone else’s needs or desires.  His only concerns are his own needs.  In the world in which we now live, however, this statement applies in a somewhat different, albeit far more important sense.

All around us are people whose lives indicate that their only focus is on the here and now.  They live paycheck to paycheck, with no concept of preparing for the future.  They seem to live day to day, with no plan, and simply react to what may happen each day.  They do not have any long-term goals; they have no idea how they will survive when they can no longer work, and they seem for the most part to be unconcerned about it.  They are like hamsters on a wheel, and may not even be aware of it, and even if they are aware, they have no idea what to do about it.

Such a viewpoint in the physical affairs of life is at the very least unwise, and may even be catastrophic in the long run.  This same view in spiritual matters is not only unwise it is assuredly catastrophic when one considers the reality of eternity.  All of us will reach eternity one day, whether we have a view toward it or not, and we must make plans for that eventuality, lest we suffer the consequences.

Paul the apostle was a man who had a view toward eternity.  Everything he did as a Christian and as an apostle of Jesus Christ was predicated upon the understanding that one day he would stand before the judge of mankind to give an account (cf. Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10).  When he made his defense before the Roman governor, Felix, he said, “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.  In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:14-16).

Paul understood that life on earth is merely preparatory for life in eternity.  This fact has been ordained by God the Father, who calls on all men everywhere to repent because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world by His Son (Acts 17:30, 31).  For this reason, Paul did nothing that would jeopardize his standing before God, or negatively affect his destiny when that time came.  It is a sound message that each of us needs to take to heart.

Living with a view toward eternity affects virtually every decision one makes, both in a positive sense and in a negative sense.  If one has a view toward eternity, he will devote himself to God’s word so he knows exactly what God requires of him in order to enter heaven.  With eternity in mind, one will choose to obey the gospel and live faithfully until death.  With thought for eternity, one will lead his family in a godly manner, directing them along the path he himself is walking.  With eternity in view, one will reject the siren’s call to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:25), in favor of godliness that is profitable both here on earth and also in eternity (1 Tim. 4:8).  While many “live for today,” let us be people who live with a view toward eternity.