What’s Worse Than A Fool

The fool. He’s the person prominently displayed in the book of Proverbs that God’s people are specifically warned to not be like.

The fool brings ruin (10:14); he enjoys doing wrong (10:23); he doesn’t listen to advice (12:15). The fool “flaunts his folly” according to Proverbs 13:16 and Proverbs 17:16 tells us “he has no sense.” He is reckless and careless (14:16), he takes no pleasure in understanding (18:2), and trusts in his own mind rather than sound wisdom (28:26). We’re told to leave his presence (14:7), to be wary of trying to reason with him (23:9), and to rather meet a mother bear robbed of her cubs than to meet a fool in his folly (17:12). This is just a sampling of what the book says about the fool and about living in the way of folly.

So it is quite surprising when the book of Proverbs tells us there is something that is worse than a fool. And that’s exactly the point of Proverbs 26:1–12. Proverbs 26 opens with a string of verses warning us against the foolish person and the way of folly, but then exposes an area where many of us, at times at least, may act worse than fools.

Proverbs 26:1–12

[1] Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
so honor is not fitting for a fool.

[2] Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying,
a curse that is causeless does not alight.

[3] A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
and a rod for the back of fools.

[4] Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.

[5] Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.

[6] Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool
cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.

[7] Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless,
is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

[8] Like one who binds the stone in the sling
is one who gives honor to a fool.

[9] Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard
is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

[10] Like an archer who wounds everyone
is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.

[11] Like a dog that returns to his vomit
is a fool who repeats his folly.

And after all of that, consider God’s warning to us with the final verse in this section:

[12] Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.

There’s no hope for a fool! seems to be the thought coming out of the first eleven verses. But then we find that there’s more hope for a fool than there is for one who is wise in his own eyes. That’s why the apostle Paul commands us in the book of Romans, “Never be wise in your own sight” (Romans 12:16), because the one who is wise in his own sight is worse than the worst fool.

Folly is obvious, but pride is deceptive. And my strong guess would be that the deceitfulness of pride has led more Christians into sin than blatant folly.

Beware of pride. Beware of being wise in your eyes. Don’t be worse than the dog who returns to his vomit, the archer who wounds everyone around him, the one who ties the stone to the slingshot, the one who cuts off his own feet. Beware of pride. Beware of being worse than a fool. Never be wise in your own sight.

Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.

Photo by Alex Lopez on Unsplash