Wisdom v Foolishness

Wisdom_v_Foolishnessby Alan Louis, PhD (Commerce)

As the marketplace language is infected with foolish jargon, we need to consider the ways of a fool versus that of the wise. What is it that keeps a fool from being wise? The Word of God gives us the answer: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15), whereas “the astute is not wise in his own eyes.” (Proverbs 3:7)

A fool is simply a person who acts unwisely or imprudently. Although a wise individual acts directly contrary to that of a fool, his/her distinguishing feature is their fear of God which, according to the wise King Solomon, is ‘man’s all’.

A fool will always mistakenly believe he is in the right in everything he does, and therefore seeks no advice, because he does not apprehend that he needs it; he is sure he knows the way and therefore never seeks other alternatives. According to the renowned Christian Bible commentator Matthew Henry:

“There is not a greater enemy to the power of religion, and the fear of God in the heart, than conceitedness of our own wisdom. Those that have an opinion of their own sufficiency think it below them, and a disparagement to them, to take their measures from, much more to hamper themselves with, religion’s rules.”

The fool’s rule is governed by his eyes, not by conscience or accepted norms, and therefore walks in the way of his heart and experience – his will is always his law.

The wise individual, on the contrary, not only desires to have counsel given to him/her but also hearkens to counsel. The wise are reserved with their own judgment and place value on the direction of those that are wise and good. This is in line with the guidance of Proverbs 1:5: “A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel.”

Being in commercial partnerships or contracts with wise people is indeed a rare thing as the marketplace is littered with unwise actions. Wise people welcome instruction, but be very careful to direct or instruct a fool, he will hate you for it because a “fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart” (Proverbs 18:2) and “if you speak in the hearing of a fool … he will despise the wisdom of your words.” (Proverbs 23:9)

A gentle reproof will positively enter not only into the head, but also into the heart of a wise man. However, like Pharoah who remained hard under all the plagues of Egypt, a hundred stripes are not enough for a fool, to make him sensible of his errors.

In a culture of honour, we should celebrate who the person is, without stumbling over who he/she is not. This is sadly not the thought processes of a fool, therefore answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. When confronted by a fool, remember that an elephant should not feel intimidated by an ant that is spitting at it. However, in a fight with a skunk you might win the fight, but you will smell awful afterwards.

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