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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No Fool

It's April first, which traditionally (in Western culture anyway) is celebrated by playing tricks on others to try to make fools of them. I'm bringing it up to point out that the commonly-understood definition of fool is a person who is unworthy of the esteem of his peers. No, you might say, you've got that wrong. Fool is just another word for stupid. A fool a person who is not as clever or as wise as those he wants to respect him.

I think the normal reaction to being called a fool shows that I'm right on this one. This is not about intelligence, but rather about public esteem. We are comfortable with the idea of knowing less than our peers, but we hate it when someone points out this weakness, especially as a way of putting us down. Maybe this is one reason why I don't like April Fool's Day, because I dislike how this holiday can turn friends against each other by making some people into the April Fool's joke. It's fun to play a trick on someone, but it's usually not fun to have the trick played on you. It just goes to show us that fool doesn't mean stupid to us, it means pariah--which is something we'd like to avoid at all costs.

Why do we take it so personally when someone tricks us and other people laugh? I think it's the product of making man's approval too important. We are more likely to think of something as good if other people think so. We are less likely to do something if other people tell us they disapprove (John 12: 42-43).

That's the bad news. The good news is this is not the definition offool in God's sight. God defines a fool as a person who does not care for His approval--a person who despises advice or correction. He does not laugh at us when we get tricked by others. Instead, He goes after those who are laughing, because He told them to serve us and to love us, and they are being disobedient.
The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception. Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright. (Proverbs 14: 8, 9 NIV)
Putting someone down does not make us wiser than that other person. More importantly, putting someone down to make ourselves feel better is not acceptable to God.

I'm not saying that Christians should not celebrate April Fool's Day, but we must celebrate with kindness and love if we want to model Christ's behavior for others. As Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves....If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:10, 18 NIV). If we keep that in mind, no one will be a fool today.