The Day of the Fool
April 1st has long been known as a day of trickery and deceit, but all in good fun of course. The date has been marked off on calendars as a joyous day in which one person causes another to believe something to be untrue. Yet, while many embrace April Fools’ Day, few know the history of the day. That is partly because there seems to be no lack of stories about its origin. The most common explanation suggests that April Fools’ Day is the result of a switch in France from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1582. Once celebrated as a week long festival that ended on April 1st, the date of New Year’s Day had to be moved to January 1st as a result of the switch. However, some were slow to get the news and continued to celebrate in the traditional way. Demonstrating the life of an unknowing simpleton, the day became a memorial to their lack of astuteness being celebrated forevermore as April Fools’ Day. Today, it is a lighthearted time of practical jokes that exposes just how gullible we humans really are.
The Way of the Fool
Long before this day though, God also spoke of fools throughout His Word. As we read, a fool is revealed to be one who lacks good sense and good judgment. The Psalmist declares, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good” (Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1). The fool in view here is not simply one who denies the existence of God, but as Dr. William Varner would say, “The fool is a practical atheist who denies God in his life.” The results of folly extends far beyond knowledge or lack thereof, but these verses reveal a coarse truth: the fool is exposed by his depraved lifestyle.
Scriptural truth suggests that there are three conditions of a fool’s life that identify him as a fool to the wise:
- A Fool Denies God (Isaiah 32:6): As the Psalmist declares that there is none who does good, Isaiah endorses this premise by declaring that a fool will deny God through ungodliness.
- A Fool Delights in Wickedness (Proverbs 10:23): A fool delights in the ungodliness that he lives in. As the writer of Proverbs declares, it is like a sport to him.
- A Fool Duplicates His Folly (Proverbs 26:10): Unlike those who learn from their mistakes, the fool simply repeats his foolishness.
The Way of the Wise
Unlike the fool, a wise man finds pleasure and joy in understanding (cf. Proverbs 10:23). True wisdom cannot exist apart from God. In fact, Paul writes to the Corinthians that if they are to be truly wise, they must become fools to this world (1 Corinthians 3:18). True wisdom cannot exist apart from God, but can only be found in God.
I have found no better definition of wisdom apart from the one that Dr. Harris gave me nearly two years ago. It is this:
A skilled and sensible approach to life:
- by God’s definition and standards,
- beginning with the fear of the Lord,
- and always demonstrated in/by one’s behavior.
Skilled implies that wisdom is not something that comes naturally to a person, but is something learned through experience that will culminate by being portrayed in a person’s lifestyle. Ultimately though, it comes from God. Proverbs 9:10 reads, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” In this same way, Proverbs 1:7 tells us that the fear of the Lord also leads to knowledge, which will be despised by fools.
The Day of the Wise
Wisdom in the world is foolishness to God, while wisdom in God is foolishness to the world. True wisdom then, abides in God; to find it, we, too, must abide in God. There are two paths that stand in contradiction to one another. The path of the fool which lies in destruction is wide and easy, while the path of the wise is both narrow and hard but leads to restoration (Matthew 7:13-14).
The difference between wisdom and folly is the difference between knowing God or not. One leads to eternal salvation while the other leads to eternal damnation. Therefore, one can say that at the heart of the conflict between man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom is the heart of man. And on that day of judgment, will you be seen as the foolish man who proscribes God or as the wise man who praises God?