Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fools in our Lives

"Go from the presence of a foolish man when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge." - Proverbs 14:7 (KJV)

"[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." I Cor 13:7-8a (NKJV)

We all have them. Those friends, family members, or coworkers who are always making one bad decision after another. You know their kind: the ones who make decisions without thinking of the consequences, who live life as if the moment was all the existed, who regularly say and do things which are completely moronic and have no idea that they do. They are the ones who make Type B people look bad. They are what the Bible calls, fools.

Now, there's nothing wrong with a little foolishness now and again. Finding joy out of simplicity is one of the ways in which we, as humans, cope with the constant stress of actually being alert to our actions and words and their effects on others. The key difference is that for a fool, that foolish behavior and lack of foresight, has become such an integral part of who they are, that it is the source of their identity. They are not called the "farmer who does foolish things" or the "son who acts foolishly", they are called "fools" because that has become the entirety of their identity.

At this point, you probably have some names floating around in your head. I know I'm doing my best not to and still have them there. That is another consequence that being a fool has, and that they are so blissfully unaware of, that everyone they encounter can plainly tell that they are fools and that it will work to sabotage their lives and futures. In the long run, there really are no benefits that arise from being a fool.

So the question then becomes, how do we respond to these fools in our lives. Their actions set them on a course that leads to disaster. The Word makes it clear over and over again that the paths of fools leads to poverty, wickedness, and destruction. What are we, as Christians, suppose to do about them?

The Bible is interesting in that it provides two answers to this, the above verses. And like so many things in life that are more complicated than we truly realize, at first glance, it would seem that the two contradict each other. The one verse is a summation of the entire book of Proverbs, and any book of wisdom in the Bible (James, et al) which states that those who are wise should not waste their time on the fools. The other verse sums up what could be considered to sum up the books of grace (Pauline Epistles, Psalms, et al) when it states that our love for others should endure and bear all things. This presents a dilemma.

It is infinitely wiser to abandon a fool for the simple reason that they walk a different path than the wise. It is the same principle of being unequally yoked in any labor. A fool will waste a wise individual's time, and wasting time is one of the worst things we can do, since time is one of our most precious resources here on earth. The Bible talks a lot about "cast[ing] pearls before swine" and giving the "children's bread to the dogs", essentially, giving something of value to those who will never appreciate the value of it. A fool will waste your time, energy, and resources and will never even think about it. And that is only the beginning. Fools not only bring destruction into their own lives, but those around them as well. A wise person should follow the advice of Solomn when he says, "depart from a fool when you realize he lacks knowledge."

And yet, through all of these things, love can persevere. Love suffers for a very long time at the hands of the fools and is still kind to them. Love is not puffed up in its own conceited wisdom, and so does not think evil of anyone. Love reaches out to those who need it the most, regardless of their situation, position, or past. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love stems from a root of grace, and so has grace for all. Love conquers all.

So which do we do then? Are we to love people regardless and persevere with them, or are we to recognize a fool for a fool, and depart from their ways which lead to destruction? Which path do we take: the path of wisdom or the path of love? In many places in scripture the two paths do diverge strongly. When one loves somebody, the way God loves them, you cannot help but be moved to some form of action. That is true love. Yet often the actions that are the fruit of love, are contradictory to what would be a wise use of time/energy/resource/life. God calls us to love but He also calls us to wisdom. So which is the better path then?

Like many things in life, the answer cannot be computed down to a simple binary yes/no. The Word talks often about loving someone enough to NOT interfere, to allow some chastisement to come into their life. Even God does it to us, allowing us to bear the consequences of some of our actions so we may learn from them and grow closer to Him. And similarly, when we have true wisdom, we cannot help but be moved to compassion when we gain understanding of the circumstances that often make a person a fool. No one truly chooses to be one. So we see that the situation is more complex than simply picking a path.

If we were to choose just one method of dealing with a fool, we would ourselves descend into foolishness. Essentially, most things, when kept in moderation and administered within the bounds of God established institutions, are beneficial to humans. It was not for naught that God said, "It is very good" when He was finished making the earth. What makes a fool is essentially their decision to overindulge in foolishness, until it becomes their very identity. They are out of balance. But to choose only one method of addressing them (as the problem), is equally as foolish.

The reason for this is simple. To live in our temporal world is to change. We equate life with it. Yes, there is still a measure of constance and endurance in many things, but one of the most sure things we are certain of on earth is that things always change. The best and most applicable example of this are the seasons. As they change, the world changes with them in their constant pattern. So also, we go through various seasons in our lives, and our fools go through seasons in their lives. Recognizing this is essential in deciding how to address them.

There will be times when we will have to take steps to help them, even when we feel we do not want to. There will be times when we will have to step back, even when we desperately want to intervene. God uses them and uses their situation in our lives to grow us, but only as long as we remain sensitive to His word. Sometimes He may ask us to do teh unwise thing, to allow them into a place in our heart and trust them in a way where they have let us down and hurt us before. As hard as it is, love keeps no record of wrongs. And that same love that drives us to take action, must sometimes be tempered with wisdom to recognize that inaction can be a form of action in and of itself, as a method to wait and let the Lord do what we cannot. In all of this, God dictates the seasons and God will dictate the path that we must take during it. Staying sensitive to His word and His will is what will ultimately guide us to the place where wisdom and love are united in our lives and in our actions.

"Call to me and I will answer and show you great and unsearchable things which you have not known." - Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this, I really needed to hear it.