Here in verse 1 we have another reference to someone who is “foolish.” It surprised me to learn that this is only the fifth time the word “foolish” has been used in Proverbs. I thought it was in every chapter several times – but it was a trick of the eye and mind. We have read the words “fool” and “fools” which have come up nine times each before now.
The specific word “foolish” is actually found only slightly more than fifty times throughout the Bible. As I read through them, I noticed they were used in several, slightly different ways. The majority of verses speak of “foolish” sons, daughters and nations. Sometimes they were just descriptions – “So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.” “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
In addition to these sometimes the word suggests something deeper than a simple description. Sometimes it speaks of the person’s true nature – his character. Sometimes the word “fool” is followed by the word “is.” “A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.” “A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.” “A foolish son is the calamity of his Father.”
The first verse in this chapter is different. This time the word “foolish” goes somewhere; it leads us along. Did you notice that when I read this verse last week, I felt obligated to try to explain? When I said, “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands,” I felt obligated to add, “although it may not have been intentional.” Because this woman is a fool, she does foolish things. Once in a while the word “foolish” is tied to a transitive verb – a verb which requires an object.
Foolishness is a state; it is a condition – it is the natural condition of the human heart. A stone is a lifeless chunk of solid dirt, and all it can do is sit there until something moves it. Foolishness however unlike the nature of the rock, is different, it goes places and does stuff. And out of thousands of things which it might do, Solomon brings several specific to our attention.
“Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”
I suppose that some foolish people – insane people – might try to literally destroy their homes and families. But far more often the destruction is not done deliberately – in fact it is without any deliberation at all. Let’s say a mother doesn’t care about her appearance at home, exposing herself before her children. By example she teaches her daughter to dress like a slut – at home and abroad. Whose fault is it when that daughter is sexually assaulted because she has been permitted to stay out late at night wearing the clothes of a whore? Another mother, with her three small children, walking through the grocery store, plucks a few grapes from the fruit bins and gives them to her kids without buying any at all. Why should she be surprised when one of her teens is caught shop-lifting or stealing a car?
There are so many ways for a foolish woman – or her husband – to pluck down her house. She may do it by turning her back on her own parents’ faith in Christ. Her husband may contribute to it through his criticism of the preacher. No wonder those kids grow up with no regard for Christ or for the Word of God. No wonder they have no understanding of sin and their need of salvation. “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.”
In Proverbs 9:13 Solomon said, “A foolish woman is clamourous; she is simple, and knoweth nothing.”
Of course, this could speak of men just as easily as women. To get to the right point, let’s begin at the end and move forward. “A foolish woman is simple and knoweth nothing, but she is clamourous.” Because this person does not know the Lord, she lacks the most basic of all truth. And thus we call her “simple.” This is the only place in the Bible where this word is used, so we can not use other verses to define it. But Solomon defines it for us – “she knoweth nothing.” Nothing at all? Certainly she knows some things, but she doesn’t know the really important things. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools (foolish) despise wisdom and instruction.”
As a result of her lack of knowledge, she can’t keep her mouth from flowing over with pointless noise. She is “clamourous” – this word is most often translated “roars.” I am picturing a woman neighbor of ours – a single mother. She drinks and gets drunk; she smokes; she swears. I have accidentally seen her in her underwear. And her primary method of child-rearing involved screaming – roaring orders at her son. She knows nothing of the Lord, little about morals, and nothing about raising children. It appears that she clamourous because she is simple and knows nothing. Perhaps this particular woman is an extreme example – perhaps not. But I have to wonder about any clamourous person Is the reason they bluster and scream because they are simple and foolish?
Furthermore, the mouth of the foolish dispense foolishness.
Proverbs 15:7 – “The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so.” I have a habit in my preaching, something of which you perhaps you are unaware until I remind you. When I repeat a thought, I will usually use a different set of words. Even when referring to the Lord, I will say “God” in one sentence, then “the Lord” – and “Jehovah” in a third sentence. I wonder if Solomon did the same sort of thing – this time comparing “lips: and “the heart.” “The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so.”
From where do peoples’ words come? What are their source? Especially when we don’t think about what we are saying, don’t our words often express who we are? Don’t they arise from the depths of our hearts? The wise man proves that his heart has been blest with the wisdom of Jehovah, by speaking wise, holy, profitable things. But the foolish man dishes out useless drivel or actual wickedness because it is the nature of his heart. And so, if our verbal conversations were used to judge our nature what would the verdict be?
A foolish person despises those whom he should love and respect.
Proverbs 15:20 – “A wise son maketh a glad Father; but a foolish man despiseth his mother.” I suppose that we should look at this as we did our first verse. I am sure there are plenty of fools who despise their parents for various reasons. But some of that is without thought – thoroughly unplanned – it just happens because they are foolish. Assuming those parents are good people or righteous people, this hatred borders on criminal.
But more often than not, the foolish child despises only some of the things his parents are or do. He may despise their rules, even though most of those family rules are for the benefit of that child. And he may despite his parents’ God, church and faith, while loving them for a thousand other reasons. Father may love his wayward son, and even be somewhat proud of a few things he might accomplish. But until that son leaves his foolishness and begins to fear the Lord, trusting Him for salvation and life, dear old dad will not have the glad heart which a father ought to have.
Foolish people are wasters.
Proverbs 21:20 – “There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.” I can’t think of this verse without picturing Jesus’ description of the prodigal son. The father of the family represented our heavenly Father. There was treasure in the parental home – there was food, clothing and the necessities of life. There was companionship – including that of parents and a brother. and there was apparently some wealth in that home as well, enough for that prodigal to want some of it. Sometimes the treasures are not recognized by the IRS and the family accountant. There is the wealth of love, wisdom and Biblical instruction.
But the foolish son spendeth it up. He wastes both it and his life on riotous living, coming away from his life of foolishness with nothing. Foolish people are wasters, wastrels, spend-thrifts, profligates. Praise God for His mercy and grace on such fools as us.
Solomon adds one more verse to these thoughts about the deeds of the foolish man.
In Ecclesiastes 15:10 he suggests, “The labour of the foolish wearieth everyone.” In an ideal world, when someone goes to work, spending eight or ten hours at the widget factory, he should come home satisfied in the knowledge he has made ten widgets. He should be somewhat tired and ready to relax with his family and to enjoy some fellowship with them. His boss should be pleased that there is another box of widgets to send out to his customers. The man’s church might come to expect check in the offering box each Sunday. “The labor of the righteous man produces much.”
But “the labour of the foolish (person) wearieth everyone.” Because he is a fool, the quality of his work is poor and his productivity is below average. He can’t feel good about himself, because he knows he is not an asset to his employer. His family is suffering because after five years at the widget factory he hasn’t seen any advancement and his raises have been minimal. He might even be worried that he might lose his job, or at least he should be worried.
Solomon’s point in all this is that it is foolish to be foolish. The clamourous foolish woman plucking down her house will be eventually be left with little or nothing. The foolish prodigal will eventually be forsaken by his pretend friends.
“Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine… Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.”