The Difference Between the Wise and the Fool

The bible often talks about the character called “the fool” especially in the book of Proverbs. However, the word “fool” is also mentioned over 60 times throughout the bible! And If you are anything like me, you grew up thinking that a fool was equivalent to an ignorant or unintelligent person, but that’s not the case. Being a fool has less to do with a person’s intelligence, and more to do with their attitude, character, and heart. Let’s dive into this a little more.

So What Does it Mean to be a Fool?

According to the Bible, a fool is a person who “knows right from wrong, yet still chooses to do wrong.” The fool is the person who lives by his or her own rules, disregarding the consequences of their actions.

For example, when I was in high school, I understood that stealing was wrong. There was no doubt in my mind about it, yet I still did it, fully knowing the consequences! I remember stealing underwear from a department store with my little brother; thinking we avoided the cameras and the eyes of the employees, we rushed to the exit with glee, but as we approached the door, my mother was walking into the store…how convenient.

She had a big smile on her face until she saw a man walking up towards me yelling “hey! Come back here!” It was the undercover security guard. He had been watching us the whole time. He marched over and grabbed me by the shirt, informed my mom of our shoplifting, and took us to the security office where the police interrogated us about the incidence. Meanwhile, my mom, with tears running down her face, pleaded with the two officers to have mercy on me and my brother. And surprisingly, they let us go with only a warning, no charges. The bad news: I was banned from the mall for a year and I lost my mom’s trust for a while.

What’s the moral of the story? There is always consequences to foolish decisions, whether it’s immediate or prolonged. And the truth is, some of us choose to learn the hard way. That was me. I learned the hard way because I refused to listen to instruction. I refused to learn from my past mistakes and the mistakes of others. I chose to do wrong when I knew right, and that resulted in many hurts that could have been avoided. In other words, it’s much better to choose the path of wisdom.

So What does It Mean to be Wise?

The wise person is the one who knows right from wrong, but chooses to do what’s right. However, choosing to do what’s right in every situation is unnatural for us. Our nature is bent on doing what’s wrong. Our hearts are proud and deceitful. That means we need guidance and instruction, but most importantly, we need to revere and acknowledge God as the One who knows all things and whose divine wisdom is available to us through His word.

As Proverbs 9:10 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.Wisdom starts when we acknowledge God and surrender to His will. So now that we have an idea what it means to be wise, let’s look at four practical ways we can become wiser.

1. A Wise Person Applies God’s Word to Their Lives

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 

The passage clearly states the difference between the wise man and the foolish man: one only listens to the word while the other listens and practices what it says. You see, the problem with the fool is not that they don’t know or understand what God says; their problem is that they don’t apply it to their lives. Again, they know what’s right, but they choose to do the opposite. The wise person on the other hand, stands firm because their lives are built on a strong and unshakable foundation: God’s word.

2. A Wise Person Walks with the Wise and Becomes Wise

“Walk with the wise and become wise,
    for a companion of fools suffers harm.” -Proverbs 13:20

When you surround yourself with others who are wise, you also become wise. Wise friends desire the best for you. They care more about you as a friend than they care for the friendship. Wise friends are willing to speak the truth in love to you even if it means making the friendship uncomfortable for a while.

3. A Wise Person Listens to Advice

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” -Proverbs 12:15

Fools ignore advice. As the scripture puts it: “they are right in their own eyes.” They are convinced that they know what’s right and are unwilling to receive input from others. In contrast, the wise person listens to advice because they have a growth-oriented mindset. They are humble enough to admit their wrongs and courageous enough to ask for help and guidance when they need it.

4. A Wise Person Prays for Wisdom

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

Out of all the things we pray for, God is eager to grant us wisdom, generously. I mean, why wouldn’t He? The wiser we become, the better decisions we make. The better decisions we make, the more pitfalls we avoid, allowing us to live better, more productive, and impactful lives.  Like a loving father, God wants nothing but the best for His children.


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