Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“Though you grind a fool in a bowl among wheat with a pestle,
yet will not his foolishness depart from him.”
Solomon commented often about fools. He didn’t want his sons to become fools, and so, he strongly emphasized to them the great dangers of foolishness. The many comments which Solomon made about fools seemed to make it abundantly clear that fools are hopelessly lost in sin. I have carefully studied Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, and what I have found is that Solomon plainly and consistently implied that there is simply no hope for a fool. He even thought fools to be so worthless and so contrary to a good life that he told his sons that it would be better to run into an angry she-bear than to meet a fool (Prov. 17:12).
That being the case, it is surprising, to say the least, that in Proverbs, Solomon also taught that there are two kinds of people who have less hope than a fool! I remember how stunned I was to read those verses in Proverbs, especially after I had studied what Solomon taught about fools. At the time, I wished that I could ask Solomon how such a thing could be, but seeing that was impossible, all I could do was wonder at such wisdom. How can anyone have less hope than someone who has none? Without an answer, the best we can do is just to acknowledge that Solomon was profoundly wise, and then say “amen”, whether we understand it or not.
The first kind of person who has less hope than a fool is the man who thinks highly of himself; that is, a braggart, or a proud man. Solomon said, in Proverbs 26:11, that even if you manage to separate a fool from his foolishness, he is as sure to return to it as a dog returns to vomit. (Dogs will eat their own vomit, in case some of you don’t know that.) Then, in the very next verse, Solomon added, “Do you see a man wise in his own opinion? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
A careful reading of Proverbs shows that pride is one of the seven most abhorred things in the eyes of God (Prov. 6:16–17) and that “every one who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 16:5). The extent of divine contempt for the proud cannot be over-emphasized, and the wrath of God upon every proud soul is certain. To sum up all the warnings Solomon gave his son about pride, we can say, as he did, “Pride goes before destruction” (Prov. 16:18) because God loathes pride (Prov. 8:13).
The second kind of person who has less hope than a fool is a man who speaks or acts too quickly. This refers to a man who reaches conclusions too quickly, one who speaks before hearing all the evidence. This is how Solomon said it (Prov. 29:20): “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” It is very easy to be moved by someone who tells a sad story; but, if we would refrain from making a judgment until we hear all the facts, our conclusion will almost always be different from what it would have been otherwise.
As Israel’s king, Solomon was given holy wisdom so that he refrained from making any judgment until the accused had the opportunity to speak. He learned from God and from experience that some people know how to make themselves appear to be victims and that those people can move others to feel indignation at their “plight”. But Solomon’s strong desire to be a just judge of God’s people caused him to follow after righteousness and to wait until he knew the whole truth. And by doing that, he escaped many a trap that was laid for him by tearful, lying souls who complained to him of being maltreated.
Solomon warned his son of this trap of clever liars who know how to make themselves appear to be needy victims and who plead for a quick decision. Here are a couple of wise things Solomon taught his son concerning them:
“A hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge, the just will be delivered” (Prov. 11:9).
“He who is first in his own cause seems just, but his neighbor comes and searches him” (Prov. 18:17).
I am sure that there is a wise man somewhere who is able to explain why it is true that a proud man and a man who speaks hastily are more hopeless than fools. All that I can do is recognize Solomon’s wisdom to be true, and then humbly pray to God that by His holy Spirit, He keeps me, and all of us, from being either proud, hasty, or foolish.