It shows the flexibility of language but many words that carried a negative meaning today have just the opposite. For example, take “sick” or “wicked” or “bad”. When the Black Eyed Peas hit the charts with Let’s Get it Started they sang, “Let’s get stupid”. While there was already an underground urban meaning, popularly being stupid now meant something like, “let’s get outrageous.”
In many ways, foolishness or stupidity is epidemic today. Another way to put this would be if wisdom is in short supply today then, by default, people must be more prone to foolishness than actually seeking wisdom. It’s hard to self-diagnose our problems with foolishness while continuing to chase after more foolishness for the sake of being “happy”. It’s clear that we unless something or someone intervenes the natural progress of our lives is to roll down the hill of folly.
In the past few weeks, we’ve seen two “shades” of foolishness. This week let me introduce to you to a third, the type of fool in Hebrew called kesil (kes-eel). This type of fool has allowed his/her rebelliousness to settle into a kind of laziness. The origin of the word comes from the idea of “to be thick or fat” (Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs, p.115). Opposition to God can take two general forms: either active fighting against it (like a teenager) or inaction. What we saw with the teenager is as hard as a person “kicks against the goad” they will eventually bump up against how God created life to be lived. With the person who is called kesil, their opposition to God has drifted into an indifference marked by a self-confident laziness.
What’s true of this person? The Proverbs describe their stupidity as an inability to make moral decisions (1:32). Rather than act morally, the book of Proverbs describes these lazy fools as resorting to slander (10:18). In other words, their laziness leads them into folly because they don’t want to learn yet are so sure of their position, that what they vent is foolishness (15:2). It’s easier to make fun of someone (or something) than it is to actually reflect and communicate wisely. In fact, they feed on venting such foolishness (15:14). Much more can be said but lastly, rather than learning, growing in knowledge, they are satisfied with the luxury of mindless entertainment (19:10).
In pride, this type of fool insulates himself/herself from others. In a recent op-ed piece for the New York Times, David Brooks describes his desire to be the kind of person that has virtuous characteristics planted deep in the heart. He describes the difference between résumé virtues (those that you list to impress others) and eulogy virtues (those you want to be remembered for). He writes, “The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral – whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?” Brooks calls these people “stumblers” meaning it doesn’t come easy. The kesil doesn’t care, preferring to insulate themselves from caring, learning, and giving intentional effort to cultivating deep virtues. Here are some questions that you might ask…
1. When it comes to issues of character, do you give intention to becoming a certain kind of person? Or have you put it on hold because life is demanding enough? What would you point to in order to demonstrate that you were growing in character?
2. How much do you entertain yourself? How does what you watch, read, and the diversions you take part in lead you to virtues like gratitude, love, hope and joy?
3. In communicating your thoughts, are they full of your own opinions? Do you say things and act in a charitable way toward others, even if they disagree with you? In this day and age of social media, how relationally connected are you to those whom you are voicing your opinion? Is what you say said with great care for others or do you just “pop off”?
4. If humility is one of the greatest character traits we can “get deep inside of us”, when is the last time that you went to church, opened the Bible (or even a book), or sat down with a person and said, “Teach me”? Do you think more of the reasons why you should listen or do you think more of the reasons why you don’t need to listen?