No one wants to be seen as a fool, yet it’s quite likely that each of us act (or have behaved) — sometimes routinely — in a pretty foolish manner. After all, we're all sinners who are absolutely and unequivocally unable to attain perfection here on Earth.
So, what are the markers of foolishness, you ask? Solomon dove right into the symptoms, writing in Proverbs 18:2 that a fool takes no interest in understanding — and merely wants to hear his or her own voice. Ring a bell for anyone? I know I've been pretty guilty of it...
In the age of social media rants, TV news battles and selfie obsession, Solomon’s pointed proclamation is pretty convicting: “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” - Proverbs 18:2 (NIV)
Everyone knows at least one “big mouth” — and the term “loose lips sink ships” has become part of our vernacular, but it seems the problem of the tongue isn’t anything new, as Solomon warned about this foolishness well before Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were on the scene.
In Proverbs 18:6, he wrote, “The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating,” continuing with the following in verse 7: “The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives.”
Solomon’s concern also centered on the importance of listening before answering, proclaiming that uttering responses before having the proper details is “folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13).
The steady stream of Solomon’s perspective on wisdom and foolishness can be summarized in verse 15, which focuses on the importance of looking for knowledge — something that is done by discerning and wise individuals. He writes, "The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out."
In the end, a lot of us like to hear ourselves talk more than we like to listen. And even when we seem to be sitting patiently and waiting our turn while someone else talks, we're many times really just quietly formulating what we plan to say in our heads.
Listening has become a lost art in our culture, which is why we see so much splintering and ideological chaos. We need to be better.
Proverbs 18 carries with it a lesson that is found in other parts of the Bible as well: what comes out of the mouth impacts the heart, body and soul: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” - Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)
We should be lovers of truth and goodness — and our words (and deeds) should reflect that reality.