Page Two

Proverb 14: 7

Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge.

I borrow today from Paul Harvey who used the expression “Page Two” to denote the other side, or the conclusion of a story. Today I want to use that model to reveal another key element towards guarding yourself.

As I wrote yesterday it is quite easy to confuse foolishness with faith. How are you to choose right path? Well, we know the first step is always to inquire of the Lord. The reality, I find, is that we choose to listen to men rather than to God. Frankly, it is easier to hear the voice of a person than to hear the voice of God. Listening to God requires some quiet and some patience. Hearing humans requires only that you stop moving for a moment. Everyone has something to say and they will gladly burden you with their brilliance. The key, though, is don’t listen to fools. The verse is more specific than that, however. It says, “Leave the presence of a fool.” Other versions say, “Stay away from a fool.” This is strong language. I suspect Solomon wrote in this declaratory style to prevent any confusion or misreadings.

How do you know a fool? This can be very challenging because they come in sheep’s clothing. Many are even well intentioned. They are just foolish. They rely on their own wisdom. That is a key sign. They believe themselves to be smarter than experts. I knew someone who always acted and spoke like he knew more and better than lawyers. He knew more than ministers and he knew more than doctors. In fact, I don’t know that he thought anyone was better informed than he despite the disparity in education and experience. He is probably the biggest fool I have ever known.

Here is another test, look at the fruit on their tree. Pay less heed to what people say and more to what they do. I don’t mean do they sit on a pew on Sunday. Whoa but that is a bad test. Look at the fruit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5: 22). If a person is not demonstrating or growing in these characteristics, then not only should you not listen to a single word they have to say but you should “leave the presence of a fool.” I have one other test I use which is imbedded in all of the fruit above. I look at a person’s generosity. If they are not givers, then I know they are not intertwined with Jesus. God so loved that He gave. Love causes one to give. If one is a taker and not a giver, then that is a significant character defect and an absolute clue as to their foolishness.

Last, what do you do when you think the fool is a minister? This is hard and it has absolutely challenged people in the last two years. We have had ministers of the gospel saying the craziest things! Alright, let me see if I can help with this. The first thing I have noticed is that they often quote odd sources. I have listened to them quoting crackpot doctors or even non-medical personnel about medical issues. That is a clear sign. Second, look for love. If there is anger and rancor it could be because they too are frustrated, but here is what I know beyond doubt. When I become frustrated and angry to the point that it begins to show it is a clear indication that I have not been spending enough time with my Father. Next, does this person’s speech tend to edify or tear down? God’s Word teaches us to only speak that which edifies others. Now, I know it has been a tough two years on everyone and I have not always maintained my composure either, but we must be wary of these foolish people even if they are ministers.

I hope this helps you. I know you have been challenged and haven’t known in whom you could trust. Follow me as I follow Christ but only as I follow Christ. That’s a recharacterization of something Paul said. First, follow our Lord and our God. Second, if you are going to listen to the voices of humans, I strongly advise that you make sure first that they are listening to God. These truly are perilous times and the advice of a fool can kill you. Solomon knew how dangerous foolishness was and how hazardous the presence of a fool can be. That has not changed. So, judge wisely.

Lips of Abundance

Proverb 10: 21

The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding.
In this proverb Solomon contrasts the righteous and the wicked. I am gratified to learn that the lips of the righteous feeds many. I imagine that the lips of the righteous is a blessing which flows out to the city and surrounding area. Words of righteousness create a wellspring of blessing. That is really good news. Now we just have to find a few righteous people. Righteousness is in Christ Jesus which I will explain in tomorrow’s Word of the Day.
Unfortunately, many of us are surrounded by the fools. What is the relationship between these two phrases? It must be that the lips of fools bring famine and lack. I completely believe that. So here is the problem. If you are working in an organization full of people who lack understanding then you are going to corporately experience famine. Even worse, this verse says that fools die because of this lack of understanding. What then do you think is the net effect on the organization of which they are a part? The worst part of this is that there are churches which operate under a complete lack of understanding. 
Why does Solomon use these words and why does he use them together? First, I think he is telling us that not submitting ourselves individually and corporately to teaching is foolishness and leads to malnutrition and ultimately to death. Fools are those who are unwilling to be educated. They know everything and no one can teach them anything. Wise leaders are constantly learning and the wisest of leaders provide learning opportunities for their people. 
How many people do you know who subject themselves to a program of learning? How many people defy the teachings of their bosses and even their pastors. Sure, no person knows everything but there are people with much wisdom and knowledge. No matter how much we think we know, we can still be instructed. There is always someone who can lead us into greater truth.

If you are the smartest and most knowledgeable person in your sphere then you need desperately to widen your sphere. Don’t be foolish. Don’t continue in a lack of understanding. Find teachers and voraciously consume all you can. The key question is not whether or not you agree. The key is always, “Father, what can you teach me from this?”  Be a student all the days of your life and add prosperity and abundance to your life and those around you.