“For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them…”
– Proverbs 1.32
Sometimes warning signs are necessary; other times they’re just there because some people are fools. Honestly, who really needs a warning label telling them not to try stopping a chainsaw with the bare hands? The same kind of person who would try to put their mouth over the jet on a jetski; the same kind of person who would try to catch a bullet with their teeth; the same kind of person who would ride their bicycle off the roof of their house into a swimming pool (sorry, mom. It won’t happen again). Fools, that’s who. Fools who won’t listen to good advice no matter how many times it’s offered to them.
In a way, we can think of the Bible, in particular the Law of Moses, as a giant warning label – or multiple warning labels. God gave detailed instructions to the nation of Israel on how to live in the Promised Land. He warned them about avoiding idols and getting mixed up with the people who lived in Canaan. He taught them about fair trade, modesty, compassion, and justice. He gave them a a sacrificial system intended to drive home holiness of their God and the terrible price of sin. At the end of the law, God warned Israel (he put a warning label on the warning label) that life and death was bound in their willingness to obey the law. If they obeyed, God would bless them and be with them; if they disregarded God’s law, then God would leave them and they would die. It’s actually pretty simple. Simple in the same way that stopping a chainsaw with your bare hand is a bad idea.
So what went wrong? People play the fool. We hear good advice, we consider good advice and then much of the time we ignore the good advice. Israel heard the law of God, considered the law of God, and then for the most part disregarded the law of God. As time went on in the nation’s history, things just got worse and worse until they were a nation full of fools. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t stupid. I’m sure that many of them were brilliant. However, being brilliant doesn’t mean you can’t also be a fool. You see, being a fool has nothing to do with IQ. It has everything to do with humility. Are we willing to listen to God? Are we willing to obey the warning label? Are we willing to submit our will and wisdom to God’s? Unfortunately, the more brilliant we think we are, the less likely we are to listen and, hence, the more foolish we tend to be.
God clearly tells us that “the simple”, or fools, “are killed by their turning away”. It’s the refusal to listen to God’s wisdom that makes us foolish. It’s the absolute unwillingness to consider that our own opinions and conclusions could possible be wrong that make us fools. It is this foolishness that leads to our death: “the wages of sin is death”. We’ve all missed the mark, failed the test, and fallen short. We’ve been fools at some time, and we all need the forgiveness that God offers through Jesus. It’s not our place to judge someone who’s being foolish today, but it is our job to try and help them see their folly, just as someone helped us somewhere along the way. We cannot be perfect, but we can be penitent. Let us be those who repent of our foolishness and make every effort to listen to God.
Let us open our ears, our hearts and our minds and be receptive to the word of the Lord. And let’s also keep our hands off the chainsaws.