Friday, January 7, 2022

Just a short rabbit trail...

 When one door closes, another door opens.  Other than that, it’s a pretty good car.

It’s not how many times you fall down.  It’s how many times you get up.

No sir.  That’s not the way a field sobriety test works.

I was reading an online post by a Christian that said her favorite verse was This too shall pass.  I kept scrolling knowing that there was no such verse.  There are many scriptures and pericopes that would support the general notion, but people sometimes just accept what sounds good as biblical.

It could be that the phrase this too shall pass might be attributed to Solomon’s court, but as an inscription on a ring or so says the Hebrew folklore.

We can understand the sentiment.  Sorrow may last for the night but joy comes in the morning would surely support that sentiment, but the problem is that we often not only attribute general sayings to the Bible, but we don’t even consider their full context.

This too shall pass gives us comfort in the storm, but it should also give us eyes to see that the joy of this day or this hour will soon be history. It’s not just the trial but the satisfaction of the moment that passes as well.

Or as Abraham Lincoln once said,” How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

Why is Tom rambling this morning?

When we conclude Proverbs here in a few weeks, we will do a one-week wrap-up. I will ask everyone to read a verse that we have heard read aloud for twenty-something Sundays so far. It’s Ephesians 5:15-16.

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

When you think of the Bible verse that is not actually a Bible verse, think on how many opportunities to be God’s love, share his word, and help others to know life have just passed us by.

How many opportunities have we missed in an age that does not know God?

When one door closes, another door opens.  Other than that, it’s a pretty good car.

As we get closer to the end of our study in Proverbs, consider how fleeting our opportunities are to be God’s love and show love and mercy through our wisdom.  For now: Let’s get to Proverbs 26.

Walking in Wisdom

 Read Proverbs 28

Here we are 28 chapters into the Proverbs and Proverbs 3:5-6 keeps making an appearance.  The wording is a little different, but the messages are congruent.

Those who trust in themselves are fools,

    but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.

How many times must we try to build a tower to heaven before we realize that our own understanding will always fall short of God’s plans for us?

God’s ways are higher than our ways could ever be, but how often do we retreat to living by our own understanding.  It’s understandable.  We think we understand our own understanding.

Let’s return to chapter 1 briefly.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,

    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Fools don’t want knowledge, wisdom, instruction, or discipline.  They believe in only what their finite minds can conceive.  They trust in their own wisdom.  A fool’s wisdom should be an oxymoron.

They do not want to even conceive of a Being whose thoughts and ways are higher than our own.  The fool wants everyone brought down to his level.  The very idea of God is repulsive to him.

We often want to believe in our own understanding—our own wisdom if you will, but we recognize that God’s wisdom far exceeds what we can comprehend.  The wisest thing we can do is to trust him—completely.

We want to believe what we understand over what God tells us is best, but we know that to be foolish.  God knows more than we can comprehend and the wisest thing that we can do is to trust him.

When we make a habit of trusting our own understanding over God’s, then we have become fools. We have been given eyes to see when this happens and we who desire to be wise, slam on the breaks as far as trusting our own understanding goes.  We trust God with everything that we have.

It is an ongoing wrestling match with our flesh.  Our own understanding always seems to be right, but we must trust that God is always right and is always looking out for us.  We must trust him.

The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

The circumstances were different, but the struggle is the same.  Our human nature naturally thinks it’s always right.  We must embrace our new nature—the new creature that we have become in Christ Jesus.  Then trusting God becomes our first nature.

Those who trust in themselves are fools,

    but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.

How do we trust God more?  Walk in his wisdomPut his words into practice.  We have to walk the walk.  Doing helps our believing and our trust.

The more that we practice living God’s way, the more it moves from theoretical to actual in our hearts and minds.  Walking in God’s way is not only right, it keeps us safe.

Remember, that all of the minefields lie in the everything else.  Safety lies in God’s way—in walking in his wisdom.

There is God’s way and there is everything else.  Live God’s way.

Amen.

The Wicked Flee Though No One Pursues

 Read Proverbs 28

Here’s one that speaks of the attributes of living God’s way or in the everything else.

The wicked flee though no one pursues,

    but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

If you know that you are not living right, you are always looking over your shoulder.  Somebody is going to catch you sometimes.  You feel like you are always on the run. 

You know that you have it coming, but you don’t know when justice will arrive and pounce on you.  You are always on the run.

Our movies romanticize outlaws.  They are always on the run.  There is a mystery about them.  Their love affairs are breathtaking and then they are over as the outlaw is always being pursued.

In reality, the outlaw is just scared.  He is always scared.  He is always on the run even if nobody is chasing him.  He knows that he will be caught someday, but for now, he runs.

The person striving to live rightly has no such fears.  They make mistakes and seek forgiveness but do not run away in fear. They face life head-on.  Courage is their constant companion.

I love the picture of the bicycle rider going uphill as fast as he can.  There is a bear chasing him.  The caption reads, “Somedays, you find your motivation.  Somedays, your motivation finds you.”

People use fear as a motivator all the time.  Governments use it.  Corporations use it. Anyone that wants to manipulate people has used it at some point.  Some are better at using fear to manipulate than others, but it happens all the time.

Now consider the person who manipulates himself out of fear.  He knows he is not living right and he knows that it will catch up with him someday, but every day he must be on the run. It doesn’t matter if someone is after him or not.  He knows someone should be.

Solutions lie in confession, forgiveness, and true repentance, but the easier choice is just to keep running. It’s not the better choice.  It’s just easier to stay with the fear you know.

The wicked flee though no one pursues,

    but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

Those who seek to live God’s way sleep at night, don’t have to look over their shoulders, and if a fight comes their way, they have God-given courage to stand their ground.

Shakespeare and later Hemmingway said something along these lines.

The coward dies a thousand deaths.  A brave man dies but once.

Even Solomon proffered a solution for the wicked who are fleeing.

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,

    but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

Instead of living your life on the run, confess.  Seek the mercy of the Lord and live.  Your mistakes do not have to direct your life.  Even the wicked can confess and seek God’s mercy.

Chances are that few who have committed their lives to the everything else in this world will muster the courage to repent and be saved, but love and mercy are qualities that humankind has always known in God.

Why try to hide your sins and be on the run for all of your life knowing full well that nothing is hidden from God?

God sees the heart!  The only solution to wickedness is complete repentance.  Everything else is just a futile attempt to postpone the inevitable.  All will account to God.

It’s better from all perspectives to live God’s way and stay out of the everything else.

The wicked flee though no one pursues,

    but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

Just do it.  Live God’s way.

Amen.

What a Day may Bring

 Read Proverbs 27

This chapter starts off with a zinger.  It’s about making plans, boasting, and the fact that while God claimed you for eternity, you don’t know what is in store for you tomorrow while you live in these bodies of flesh.

Do not boast about tomorrow,

    for you do not know what a day may bring.

Let’s start with boasting.  Any attitude that brings your hubris to the surface is surely not rooted in humility.  It’s the attitude that tries to build a Tower to Heaven.  The only boasting we should do is in the Lord.

We have plenty of counsel on humility.  Boasting of ourselves and our designs ignores the counsel.

But what about tomorrow.  Should we not have some inclination about what we might do?  Of course, you should, but it is always subordinate to the direction of God, his holy word, and his Spirit.

Plan to your heart’s content, but don’t get married to your plan.  Don’t covet the things of your plan.  God always has the best plans for you.

Make the words, thy will be done, a part of every plan you make and every step you take.

Consider now the fact that we don’t know what will happen in the course of this day, much less the next.

On 6 December 1941, most Americans thought that the wars raging in the world were far away.

On 10 December 2001, most Americans thought that terrorism took place in faraway places they would never visit.

On any given day, someone somewhere lost a loved one suddenly.  This was not the cancer that had gone on for years.  This was not the result of years of smoking.  This was not the last straw from PTSD.

This was the truck that came out of nowhere to blindside a loved one’s vehicle.

This was the previously undetected condition that cause a heart to stop that was otherwise thought healthy.

This was the one in the one in a million chance of getting struck by lightning.  Somebody had to be that one case for there to be a one-in-a-million chance.  You didn’t see that coming.

Those all seem bad.  What about the fact that out of seemingly nowhere you meet the love of your life?

What about that job offer for the thing you like to do best at a great salary and a great location?

What about that inspiration for a song or a poem or a novel that wasn’t there yesterday?

You do not know what a day may bring.  We make plans but don’t boast in them.  We seek the best of each day and the best that we can do with each day.  Paul told us to make the most of every opportunity for we live in a time not given over to loving God.

Often, those opportunities arrived unannounced.

We look forward to the day ahead celebrating it as the day that the Lord has made, but our plans must always be secondary to God’s plans.  In this willingness to yield to his sovereignty we find peace and strength and comfort.

The chapter has several stand-alone pieces of counsel, but let’s consider two proverbs that are mutually supporting. Let’s start with Proverbs 27:6.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,

    but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Let’s also consider Proverbs 27:9.

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,

    and the pleasantness of a friend

    springs from their heartfelt advice.

We have seen proverbs about how some people appear to be generous but are actually expecting something in return.  There is no gift, only investment in something to be recouped later.

But a true friend does not attempt bribery.  In fact, the best of friends speaks candidly with you, not to hurt you but out of love.  A true friend can speak the truth in love.

Just as perfume is pleasing to us, so too is advice that comes from the heart and is rooted in love.  You need a true friend who can reach you at your innermost levels and know you well enough as to how to do it.

A friend sticks with you when the going gets tough and won’t sugar coat anything. A friend will speak the truth in love to you even when it’s difficult for both of you to hear the truth.

Let’s wrap up with verse 21.

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,

    but people are tested by their praise.

There is a process to purify fine metals so that what you have left is pure.  How do you test a person’s heart?  God sees the heart, but what about us?

How do we test others to know if they seek the Lord or are just trying to lure us in?

How are we tested by others?

Wisdom says, look at whom they praise and how they react when they are praised.  Are they playing a game of working their way up the hierarchy of the world?  OK, in common parlance, are they sucking up?  Absent gold and silver to bribe someone up the ladder, do they try to do it with praise?

Or do they just praise what is praiseworthy, noting that the effort—whatever it was—would bring glory to God.  That doesn’t advance you up the ladder when you declare God’s glory to someone seeking their own glory.

Now, how do we handle praise?  We should be able to accept praise.  Sometimes we do a great job and someone wants to point it out.  That’s ok.  It’s nice to be noticed but never lose sight of the fact that whatever you did that was noteworthy, you did working for the Lord and not for men.  It was and is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

A humble person can receive compliments and praise and not let it go to their head.  It should only be an affirmation that their light shines before others and brings glory to God.

There is much more in this chapter.  Some you have heard before and some perhaps for the first time.  It’s worth another read.

Amen.

As Iron Sharpens Iron

 Read Proverbs 27

This chapter has counsel old and new, and some that require concentration and meditation.  One of these proverbs should hit paydirt for every Christian.  Consider verse 17.

As iron sharpens iron,

    so one person sharpens another.

We who have been saved by the mercy and grace of God have been given considerable liberty in how we respond to that grace.

Should we go on sinning so that grace can abound even more? No.

Should we go back to strict obedience to the law of Moses?  And forsake the One who fulfilled the law?

We are told that love fulfills the law.  That sounds like a cop-out, but it is truly a challenge like none other.

Understand that when Jesus commanded his disciples—today that includes us—to love one another as he loved them—he raised the bar.

What was the command prior to this?  Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.  That’s a tall order.  It’s tough.  It’s part of two commands that Jesus said supported every other directive and communication from God.  The first part being to love God with everything that we had.

Then Jesus came and fulfilled the law.  He gave us another command—a new command. We are to love others as much as Jesus loved us.  If we consider what is asked of us, every jaw should hit the ground.  It is as if he commanded us to charge those machine gun nests armed with only a .45 caliber pistol.  He is commanding us to do the impossible—to love with everything we have even to death.

That’s a lot more than loving someone as much as I love myself.  That’s more than is humanly possible.  That’s the point.  We are to live as people who have God living within us.  We are not worried that we will comply with a written rule.  We are motivated fully by the desire to please Holy God, and when we live governed by love we can’t help but satisfy the law.

Love takes us far beyond the law.  It takes us to bringing glory to God, to being the light of the world, and to being the salt of the earth.  People should see and taste the goodness of God when they encounter us.

But the world stands in opposition. The world tries to confound us at every turn.  The world will persecute you for following Jesus.

We need help and we have it.  We have God’s holy word that judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  We have God’s Holy Spirit—the Helper—living within us. We have the body of Christ to encourage each other and to challenge each other.

It is the last one that would seem to embody the proverb.

As iron sharpens iron,

    so one person sharpens another.

We who have professed Jesus as Lord and have given our lives to follow him as Lord are to help each other.  Surely encouragement is helpful, but we also need to be challenged by one another.

We need to help each other bring out the best in ourselves.  Sometimes it’s a pat on the back.  Sometimes it’s an attaboy.  Sometimes it’s a helping hand.

Sometimes it’s a challenge, just as your lifting partner challenges you to get one more repetition. He is there to spot you if you have nothing left so the weight of everything doesn’t come crashing down, but he is challenging you to finish that last rep.  He will grab the bar when you do and put it in its resting place, but for now, he wants you to give this last repetition everything you have and just a bit more.

As iron sharpens iron,

    so one person sharpens another.

Should we not help each other be the best disciple that we can be?  Should we accept not only encouragement but counsel as well?  Can we accept criticism that helps us get better?  Can we do the same for our brothers and sisters?

Can we speak the truth in a spirit of love, not to prove ourselves right, but because we are mature enough to communicate deeply with another believer?

We have been counseled sufficiently that the fool will not receive our counsel, but our fellow believers should.  We should receive the corrections of our brothers and sisters in Christ as well.

Few know the experience of iron sharpening iron as it applies to humans.  We are too easily offended.  We are too easily distracted.  We are still too self-centered.  Too often we insist on our own way.  We have to be right.

Sometimes we are not distinguishable from the fool.  That should motivate us somewhat to seek the counsel of others and covet the correction of other believers.

We have the advantage that God will not kick us to the curb.  He loves us with an everlasting love.  We can make mistakes, receive correction, and get back in our race of faith.

Some of our mistakes call for confession, but God is faithful and just to forgive.  God always sets us up to move forward—to grow in his grace.

The grace comes from God but we can help each other with the growth.

As iron sharpens iron,

    so one person sharpens another.

Amen.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

The Sluggard

    Read Proverbs 26

Solomon doesn’t hold back on his terminology.  A fool, a sluggard, a gossip—all are labeled according to their mindset and conduct.  Let’s spend a little time on the sluggard.  What a name!

A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road,

    a fierce lion roaming the streets!”

What do lions have to do with sluggards?  They can be the excuse of the day or the week or the month depending upon how long people buy into the nonsense.

The sluggard is most likely responding to someone telling him to get off of his butt and find a job.

But there’s a wild lion out there.  Who knows what might happen if I venture from my bed, much less my house.

This brings us to the guy in my neighborhood that is always wanting to borrow my lawnmower.  I have told him no a dozen times.  The last time he asked, he also asked why.  Why wouldn’t I loan him my lawnmower?

I told him it was because the train doesn’t run between Mangum and Dallas anymore.

He gave me a crazy look and said, “What does that have to do with loaning me your mower?”

I said, “Nothing, but if I am not going to give you what you want, one excuse is as good as another.”

And so it is with the sluggard.  One excuse is as good as another.  In the current century, the sluggard might say, “There are murder hornets out there.”  He might be right, but the fact that somewhere out there are mean insects with a powerful sting is no reason to put your life on hold.

Just for clarification, I don’t even own a lawnmower.  I usually get someone who needs work to cut my grass.

The sluggard has likely convinced himself in his own mind that the prospect of stepping outside of the house is too dangerous.  We know it’s malarky, but to the sluggard, it’s gospel.

As a door turns on its hinges,

    so a sluggard turns on his bed.

This leaves plenty of room for creative interpretation, but I will go with the obvious.  The sluggard is attached to his bed, as is a door to its hingers.  His movements are restricted to his point of lest exertion.  Get too far out of bed, and you may have to address the truth.

What truth?

That getting out of bed didn’t kill you.  That there is life out there.  That work might even be possible.  Better to just stay in bed than confront the truth.

Try this one on for size.

A sluggard buries his hand in the dish;

    he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.

Someone has brought this pitiful creature his food but it’s just too much work to lift his spoon to his mouth.  Surely, there is some hyperbole here.  Surely, this is exaggerated just a bit? Or not.

I have talked with many people who are without work and in need of food and money to pay bills and won’t come to my office.  I tell them that if they will get here, I will give them a ride home with their food.

I’m often told that they are too busy.  Too busy doing what?  They have no job.  They are not out looking for a job.  There are five adults in the house, and of course, none have a job.  The kids are in school, so it’s not like mom has to be there to watch them or one of the other five adults couldn’t watch the kids or come to my office. They are too busy.

A sluggard buries his hand in the dish;

    he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.

Maybe this isn’t hyperbole.

I have helped many people with food and bills and they are actively looking for a job, do all of the implied tasks in something I tell them to do, don’t quit at the first obstacle.

Those folks are a joy to help.  I pray with them and hope they come to better circumstances and often talk to them about what God says about work and money and tithing and blessings.

I can only shake my head at the modern-day sluggard. I think these quips of wisdom are as much for me as they are for anyone.  Don’t make it your burden when the people are too lazy to help themselves.

It’s never just that easy as often the sluggards have children and the children need water—hot water would be nice—so they can stay clean.  Sometimes I am amazed that the modern-day sluggards had the energy to make babies.

I will wrap up with verse 16.

A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes

    than seven people who answer discreetly.

Here the sluggard’s mindset puts him in league with the fool and even the gossip.  I am the only one who knows what’s going on here.

You have no job, except to beg for food and money.

You have no motivation to improve yourself, yet you discount the efforts of others.

You have disdain for the help you receive because someone always could have done more.

You are a pitiful creature, but none of your circumstances are due to your own decisions.

You will not take responsibility for your life for therein lies the truth and solutions to your circumstances and you don’t want to let go of your delusions.

I used the second person here, but I am likely not talking to you.  You, however, need to be on the lookout for not only the fool and the gossip, but for the sluggard as well.

The sluggard won’t put out much effort to help himself but will exert some energy to con you into helping him.

Solomon’s counsel is for us. The fool, the sluggard, and the gossip don’t want anything to do with wise counsel.  This counsel is for us. What do we do?

Much like with the fool, you just don’t play the game.  When the sluggard is singing poor, poor pitiful me, you don’t join in the next chorus.  Leave them to their delusions, except to challenge them to leave them behind for the truth.

Leave the ball in their court.  Come see me at 2 tomorrow afternoon and we will see if there is not a better way to handle things.

Bring all of your documentation on your income and expense, and let’s make a budget.

Go get a job, then come see me about how to keep it and get promoted.

There is a military adage that says reinforce success.  The sluggard knows this.  He wants you to commit to doing things that he can do himself.  Don’t do it. Getting you to do what the sluggard can do for himself is success in his eyes.

Always leave the ball in his court.  Require productive effort on his part to engage your participation.  Don’t be manipulated.

Solomon talks harshly about fools, sluggards, and gossips.  His counsel is don’t play their games.  Don’t be manipulated.  His counsel is for you.

The fool, the sluggard, and the gossip are not looking for instruction or discipline.  You who are seeking God’s wisdom are.

Stick to your purpose.  Ignore and rebuke in most circumstances.  Don’t be manipulated.

But what about love?

Love is providing only positive avenues—positive alternatives—for the fool, the sluggard, or the gossip to turn to if they really want to change the way they live.

Reinforcing existing bad behavior is not love.  In fact, it gets in the way of real love.

You have purposeful things to do.  The Spirit that lives inside you will tell you when someone is trying to make genuine change.  Until then, stay the course.  Live out the purpose God gave you.

As difficult as it sounds, you will be known by your love even when it is to remain on course and not be distracted by those who have forsaken their God-given purpose.  We don’t give up on them but we don’t help them stay in their ridiculous predicaments by reinforcing absurd behavior.

There is some good news here.  Most of the people that we are called to minister to are not fools, sluggards, or gossips.  They are just lost.  Share the truth with them.  Let them see God’s light shine within you.  Be known by your love.

The lost are much more fertile soil than the fool, gossip, or sluggard. You may have to deal with apathy and ambivalence, but most are not fools, gossips, or sluggards. Share the good news with all but watch out for attempts to manipulate you by some.

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.

Be known by your love.

Do not be distracted by those who would lure you into their games.

Do not be manipulated.

Press on towards the goal that God has given you.

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.

 

Amen.

Answering a Fool

 Read Proverbs 26

Long before the age of fake news, which actually began about a century ago with the Spanish Civil War, there were those who thought it their calling to distort the truth.  You could go back 2000 years to when the chief priests and elders concocted a story for the Roman soldiers to tell about what happened to the body of Jesus.  That was fake news, but it began in earnest in this time about 100 years ago.

Solomon and those others who wrote the proverbs labeled those who spread fake news as fools and as you can see in this chapter, we are cut no slack in dealing with them. We believe that Solomon is responsible for this chapter.

Does a fool deserve any honor or standing or anything else that would give us cause to listen to him? About as much as snow in July or a rainstorm for wheat harvest.

Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,

    honor is not fitting for a fool.

I lived in Texas long ago and it snowed on the first day of May.  They were huge snowflakes.  By noon they were gone and it was eighty degrees.  Snow and summer just don’t go together just as honor and a fool don’t keep company.

Go a little farther into this chapter and we get more along these lines.

Like tying a stone in a sling

    is the giving of honor to a fool.

If you tie the stone in the sling, you will never hit anything.  The stone won’t fall out, fly out, or otherwise proceed to the target.  You will never hit a target with a stone tied to your sling. A fool has no honor and we are to give him no honor.  Solomon has no reservation as he parcels our counsel on fools.  Consider this third verse.

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,

    and a rod for the backs of fools!

Now that’s some stuff right there.  What does it take to keep an animal in line?  A bridle or a whip usually do the trick, but to keep the fool in line, it takes the rod.  It doesn’t say if the fool does this or doesn’t do that.  It just says the rod is the appropriate tool for the fool.

Ouch!

Only the wise can discern these seemingly contradictory instructions.

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,

    or you yourself will be just like him.

Answer a fool according to his folly,

    or he will be wise in his own eyes.

So, do we answer the fool or ignore him?  The answer is yes.  Most of the time our counsel is not to waste time arguing with fools.  They claim victory if they can bring you down to their level of nonsense.  Don’t play their game.

But sometimes, a rebuke—not a discussion or conversation—is in order.  Sometimes God’s word needs to trump the comments of the fool, not so much for the benefit of the fool, but for those who might still be influenced into the everything else.

Consider how Jesus handled the Pharisees.  He would engage in some conversation, but mostly he issued reprimands.  The Pharisees were not considered fools, but Jesus never had a discussion with them where both were on the same level.  Jesus was always one, two, or twenty steps ahead of them.

Many of the remarks given to the Pharisees were for the benefit of the people.  The Pharisees like the fool just needed to be put in their places from time to time.

Here’s some harsh but precise counsel.  Don’t send a message by way of a fool.  He will botch it so badly that you will think you amputated a limb or drank poison.  Think of the worst possible thing that could happen if you sent an important message with a fool.  Now multiply that worst-case scenario by ten or twenty or one hundred.

Sending a message by the hands of a fool

    is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison.

In a similar vein, don’t trust any job to a fool or to someone without references for they may just be a fool.

Like an archer who wounds at random

    is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.

Imagine someone firing haphazardly into a crowd.  They have no target except mayhem.   Solomon tells us that it is the same thing as hiring a fool for any job.  He will make a mess of it.  He has no focus.  He has no purpose.  He has no pride of workmanship. More than that, he will cause damage to any in the vicinity.

Don’t trust important things to fools.  They are not worthy of your trust, and as it turns out, they are not worthy of your counsel.

Like the useless legs of one who is lame

    is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

In a similar vein we see:

Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand

    is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

Go back to answering or not answering a fool.  Your answer or lack of it is never for the fool’s benefit.  It was for the education of those who were witness.  The fool will not learn from knowledge, wisdom, instruction, or discipline.

Solomon gives us a memorable graphic for how resistant a fool is to learning or gaining wisdom.  Think about this one over lunch.

As a dog returns to its vomit,

    so fools repeat their folly.

The fool not only makes stupid decisions, he is inclined to repeat them.  It’s no wonder Solomon declares the rod for the fool.

Solomon continues to dispense some harsh counsel to sluggards and gossips.  Actually, the counsel is for the wise.  Fools, sluggards, and gossips have this in common—they neither seek nor learn from wisdom.

These are words of warning for the wise.

So, let’s save the sluggards and gossips for another time and consider our counsel on dealing with fools.

The fool has no purpose in life.  You do.

The fool does not value time. You do.

The fool does not know what to do with knowledge or wisdom. You do.

The fool will receive neither instruction nor disciple.  You will.

The fool does have a goal.  He desires to consume your time, your resources, and to discredit you.  The fool wants to bring you down to his own level. He won’t do anything to improve himself, but he longs to bring you down.  You just have to play his game.

Most of the time you can ignore a fool as irrelevant and stay on course.

Sometimes, you must rebuke the fool.  This does not mean have a discussion with him and shake hands at the end.  This means to dismiss him quickly and effectively with the truth and move on pursuing the purposeful things that God has given you to accomplish.

You may think Solomon to be heartless as he dismisses fools as people to be ignored most of the time and reprimanded the rest of the time, but Solomon’s love and mercy are for you.

The fool longs to entice you into the everything else known as folly. He understands full well that misery loves company and he wants you to keep him company in his misery of foolishness.

God wants you firmly in the boundaries of God’s way and not lured into the everything else.

How do you recognize a fool in today’s world?  He is one who seeks argument for argument’s sake.  The wise will discuss, debate, and even argue in search of the truth.  The fool does not want the truth to enter into the argument.

How do you recognize a fool in today’s world?  They are always right and will resort to distraction tactics when proven wrong.  Today they will depart from the topic and start name-calling.  Hater, racist, privileged are common.  The fool does not want the truth to enter into the argument and will do what he has to do to keep it out.

How do you recognize a fool in today’s world?  They are the ones baiting the traps.  They want arguments without resolution.  They want dissent without solutions.  They just want to keep the pot stirred so nobody ever notices that they are fools.

You can spot them.  Solomon tells us not to fall for their traps.  If they are causing damage, give them an effective rebuke and get back on course doing purposeful things.

You have purposeful things to do from now until our Master comes to claim us.  Stay on course. Press on towards the goal.  Be known by your love. Be known by your wisdom.  Be known as a child of God who lives God’s way in spite of the everything else.

You might think, well, that was a harsh message.  What happened to love?

Let’s see who remembers last week’s message. We are to:

Bring glory to God.

Grow in his grace.

Enjoy God very much.

How can we do that if we are constantly sucked into useless discussion and argument that has no productive goal? 

How can we bring glory to God if we use our best efforts for those things that are least productive—if we cast our pearls before swine?

How can we grow in his grace if we are not willing to learn from him instead of venturing into foolish endeavors?

How can we enjoy God if we continue to take the bait that the fool sets before us?

What happened to love?  God is pouring out his love on you in guiding you in his way and out of the everything else.

Amen.