The writer of Proverbs divides the world into two types of people: wise and foolish. He has much to say about both. A man is made wise by listening to the Lord and living his life in surrender to God’s will and way.
God is wisdom and the source of all wisdom in this earth. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God,’” David said (Psalm 14:1 NASB).
When we reject God, we reject the process of receiving the wisdom we need. We become foolish, vainly thinking that our mere humanistic thinking is sufficient for life.
And, fools will hurt you. They ruin relationships, cloud decision making, and lead others astray. If you are one who is seeking wisdom, you will find that dealing with foolish people is a great burden.
I have recently been helping a pastor work through an issue with a very foolish person in his church. This individual is proud and believes their opinion is more important than anyone’s. They are creating strife and discord in the church, and there is a very clear unwillingness to submit to godly spiritual leaders.
A foolish person wrapped in religious clothing is even harder to deal with, because they approach others under the guise of spirituality. Their anger and issues are hard to deal with, which the writer of Proverbs points out. It is a very heavy weight for a leader to bear.
A stone is heavy and the sand weighty, but the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them (Proverbs 27:3).
Here are twenty instructions from Proverbs about how to recognize and deal with foolish people—some things a wise leader needs to understand.
- They will not accept instruction.
“Fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
- They will not honor others.
“Fools display dishonor” (Proverbs 3:35).
- They will gossip and slander others.
“He who spreads slander is a fool” (Proverbs 10:18).
- They do not have spiritual understanding.
“Fools die for lack of understanding” (Proverbs 10:21).
- They always think they’re right and will not receive the counsel of others.
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Proverbs 12:15).
- They are quick to anger.
“A fool’s anger is known at once, but a prudent man conceals dishonor” (Proverbs 12:16).
“A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back” (Proverbs 29:11).
- They will ultimately display their foolishness. It cannot be hidden for long.
“Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool displays folly” (Proverbs 13:16).
- If you associate with them, it will lead to harm.
“The companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20).
- They are deceitful, often unknowingly; they are full of self-deception.
“The foolishness of fools is deceit” (Proverbs 14:8).
- They are arrogant and careless, particularly about walking into evil.
“A fool is arrogant and careless” (Proverbs 14:16).
- They are quick to tell everyone what they think (which is folly). They have an opinion on everything that they believe is right.
“The mouth of fools spouts folly” (Proverbs 15:2).
- They reject discipline.
“A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but he who regards reproof is sensible” (Proverbs 15:5).
- They do not spread real knowledge (although they think they do).
“The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not so” (Proverbs 15:7).
- Don’t give them position or honor.
“Like one who binds a stone in a sling, so is he who gives honor to a fool. . . . Like an archer who wounds everyone, so is he who hires a fool” (Proverbs 26:8-10).
- They will not receive a healthy rebuke (because they always think they’re right).
“A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (Proverbs 17:10).
- They are dangerously protective when you deal with them. They will hurt you to protect their way.
“Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly” (Proverbs 17:12).
- They don’t want understanding, but they love to tell you what they think.
“A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind” (Proverbs 18:2).
- They create strife.
“A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows” (Proverbs 18:6).
- They love to quarrel.
“Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).
- It’s useless to try to reason with them.
“Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words” (Proverbs 23:9; see also 26:4-5).
All of us are foolish at times, and we’re all capable of becoming foolish. Every leader must evaluate first his own life, to see if he is acting or living foolishly.
A wise leader pursues God fervently and humbly, which is to pursue wisdom. But a wise leader must also know how to recognize and deal with foolish people, particularly those who are causing discord, contention, and strife.