I wonder if “fool” is a word we should use as lightly and frequently as we do. We use it as an insult, a jab at a person when we think they’re being an idiot. But that’s not the way the word is used in Proverbs; nor, even, anywhere else in Scripture. It’s a label, yes, but one that’s used in contrast to the wise. Keller suggests that “fools are people so habitually out of touch with reality that they make life miserable for themselves and all around them.”1
There’s something to that, I suspect. Consider it: what is a fool but someone cares for nothing but their own desires? What is a fool but someone who thinks they can do whatever they want continually and it have no ill-effect on society?
This is why when we first see the fool mentioned in the Psalms, it’s someone who, in their heart, says, “There’s no God” (Psalm 14:1), denying God’s existence, and authority in all creation. Denying the One who makes life make sense. “Fools fail to see these boundaries embedded in reality —physical, psychological, relational, and spiritual. They step outside them and wonder why they sink.”2
This is what we see all throughout our culture in our day. This is what we’ve seen since the fall in the garden. We make ourselves the center of our worlds. We want to see the boundaries God has given over creation, including us. And when what we’ve decided is true about ourselves lets us down—when being the master of our domain doesn’t work—we decide we didn’t do it hard enough, repeating the cycle ad nauseam. We denied, rejected, and claiming to be wise, became fools (Romans 1:22).
That is the ultimate foolishness, and that is what God rescues us from in the gospel—the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He gives us the boundaries because they are for our good and for our flourishing. He demands we stop trying to be our own righteousness because we can never be righteous enough. He commands us to look on Christ as our life because he is the only one who can bear the wait. The way of self is ultimate foolishness. The way of the gospel is the ultimate wisdom.