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Saturday, April 23, 2011

That's Just Foolish

The Bible talks about three levels of "knowing", so to speak. There is, at the bottom, knowledge. At this level you have the awareness of the facts. Next up is understanding. At this level you have a comprehension of the facts and a sense of how they fit together. The top level is wisdom. At this point you know the facts, comprehend their meaning and how they fit, and are now able to accurately apply them to living.

I'm sure you can do the math and figure out that there would also be three levels of ... not knowing. The level that, in this direction, would be the top level would be ignorance. At this level you just don't know the facts. After that comes stupidity, where you do know the facts but can't comprehend what they mean. Finally there is foolishness, where you would appear to have the facts and know what they mean but cannot apply them to life.

In normal circles, calling someone "ignorant", "stupid", or "foolish" would have the same basic meaning, but I'm sure, when you think about it, that you can see that these are different. To call someone "ignorant" is not to demean their intelligence. It simply says that they are not in possession of all the facts. Indeed, no human being is in possession of all the facts, so all of us are ignorant in some areas or another. Of course, to what level we are ignorant varies, but it is, on the surface, no shame to be ignorant. "Stupid", on the other hand, is demeaning someone's intelligence. They have the facts and should have no problem seeing what they mean, but they don't. That's just ... stupid. Often it is even willful stupidity. The facts may be laid out for anyone to see, but some choose to ignore the plain reality and claim, in essence, to be stupid. The worst, of course, is the foolish person. This person is without excuse. While an ignorant person has never had access to the necessary information and the stupid person apparently lacks the necessary intelligence to comprehend the information, the foolish person has both and cannot figure out what to do with it. Foolishness, biblically, is typically a matter of sinfulness. Proverbs 9:4-6 speaks of the "simple" or "naive", what I've termed "ignorant", and urges them to turn. To the stupid (my term) -- those who lack understanding -- wisdom urges them to pursue wisdom and forsake folly (the biblical term for "foolishness"). But the fool is another story. The fool is immoral, a seductress that draws others away. The fool says "There is no God" either in words or in lifestyle. The fool may actually be strong in the "wisdom of the world", but the biblical fool is lacking in spiritual wisdom. Remember, "a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised."

So, let's review. Where do we not want to be? We want to avoid "foolish", which is a product of sin, an either intentional or practical refusal to recognize God as God. Above the fool is the stupid, the one who has information but lacks comprehension. They need clarification. Not as bad as the stupid are the ignorant. They simply lack the knowledge and that can be provided. Of course, from there we know that there are those who know. They have the facts. Better than that are those who understand. They know how the facts fit together. Ultimately we want to be wise, knowing how to apply the truth to life. Wise is the place to be, having knowledge and understanding especially in spiritual matters. Denying God in any form, whether intentionally or by practice ... well, that's just foolish.

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