In our culture, fools are often thought of as silly or ridiculous, and foolishness is described as an unawareness leading to trouble, annoyance, or offense. However, the biblical usage of the term fool is not primarily about someone who is silly or naïve. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Proverbs 1:7 reveals, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Fools willingly reject the Lord and hold God’s wisdom in contempt. They choose not to fear the Lord (Proverbs 1:29). They ignore the advice and rebuke of the Lord, refuse to walk in His wisdom, and do not follow His ways (Proverbs 1:30). Instead, fools rely on themselves. In trusting himself (Proverbs 28:26), the fool does not recognize that his own heart is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). It is no surprise, then, that fools are corrupt and their ways are vile (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). They enjoy wicked schemes (Proverbs 10:23), proclaim folly (Proverbs 12:23), mock at sin (Proverbs 14:9), and are deceitful (Proverbs 14:8). Fools despise the wisdom found in knowing the God of all wisdom (Proverbs 2:6–8).
Romans 1:18–32 echoes Proverbs’ description of a fool and explains the progression of folly. God has given His wisdom to be found; however, although people “knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles” (Romans 1:21–23). Fools despise wisdom because they willingly exchange the God of the universe for things that are corruptible and temporary. They reject who God is and are ungrateful for what He has done. As a result, God gives fools up to their “shameful lusts” and a “depraved mind” (Romans 1:26, 28).
Jesus contrasts the foolish with the wise person, saying, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:24–27). Because fools despise wisdom, they are on a path to destruction (Proverbs 1:32; 10:14; 18:7). What seems wise in a fool’s own eyes will ultimately fail. Only trusting in God and His wisdom will last.
God wants us to know Him and to live wisely (John 3:16–18; Ephesians 5:15–20; James 4:7–10; 1 Peter 5:6–11). He promises to keep safe those who listen to Him and walk in wisdom (Proverbs 1:33; 28:26). If we need wisdom, we should ask God. James 1:5 tells us that He will give it to us willingly and without reproach. Instead of becoming fools who despise wisdom, we can learn to love wisdom by repenting and fearing the Lord, building a foundation on the solid and lasting wisdom of God. Instead of destruction, fools can have hope when they put their faith in Jesus Christ and follow His ways (Romans 5:1–5; John 15:1–11; Hebrews 11:1; 12:1–2).