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The Wise vs. The Fool: can you tell the difference?

Can you spot a fool? Who do you think of as wise? Is it about thinking? Lifestyle? Recklessness vs. conservativism? As Jesus famously put it: both the wise person and the foolish person build houses.

As Paul writes his last words to his spiritual son Timothy wisdom and folly are his subject. There is much in 2 Timothy 3 to chew on.


Human beings are lovers. The question isn't do you love, but what or who do you love? Some love self, money, pleasure and don't love good and God. They LOVE - LOVE - LOVE LOVE - LOVE but it's empty in the end. The folly of such fools (v9) will be evident before long. Time will tell.

In the short term, such fools look godly. A glance. A brief meeting. The public face of a fool looks wise. You might call them a wise person.

Wisdom and folly, in the moment, can look the same.

Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly, in Solomon's book of Proverbs, sing the same song but one allures to life and the other entices to death.

Folly doesn't just talk the talk, but it walks the walk. Fools like discipling others as much as the rest of us. They do life-on-life, they spend time in your home. And sin-burdened people are easily led astray by the hope-filled teaching they hear. But their tutors are learners who know nothing. All the right words and none of the meaning, they're puffed up people. Their lives are a storm of sin covered by a sin of respectability. Papering over the cracks is all they offer. No power and no real change... no foundations under the building.

Fools are passionate but wrong-hearted.

Example: Jannes and Jambres, the magicians of Pharaoh who copied the miracles of Moses. Paul teaches the books of Exodus and Proverbs to his apprentice. Moses was fearful of speaking to his serpentine enemy but God gave him signs to demonstrate the gospel. Pharaoh wheeled out his foolish wise men to copy him. Utterly dispiriting - though oddly self-defeating. Moses brings judgement (that will lead to salvation), the fools only bring judgement. A little more water turned to blood? More frogs raining down? Fools can imitate godliness and bring judgement. Moses would bring salvation through judgement.

The copycats bring harm for a while but "they will not get far" - again its the Proverbial sense (answer a fool / don't answer a fool....) they'll often get somewhere but not ultimately...

And then, gulp moment: am I a fool?  

My heart seems stormy, my heart is fickle. No says Paul to Timothy, you've followed my example in life and love and so like the church in the book of Hebrews "we expect better in your case." Perhaps though, if I'm concerned at my sin, and so go to Christ that is the pathway to wisdom...


Everyone loves. Paul loves. Timothy has Spirit-breathed love (ch1) - and really has wisdom. And Timothy has watched Paul's example. He's seen Paul be persecuted and the godly should expect that. Not with a persecution complex. They don't go looking for it. And Paul wasn't always persecuted - though he writes from prison. However, in any case - The Lord Rescued Me! I know my heart. I know my sin. The Lord Rescued Me!

The point isn't to seek or avoid opposition - it'll come in all kinds of shapes and sizes as you follow God's call and quite likely from within the community of the church. I might ask if I'm not opposed why no-one thinks I'm worth opposing but life is lived in season and out of season, in endurance and in reigning. A New Testament letter written as wisdom, the dying words of a spiritual father. We are where we are... In any case: the Lord rescues... salvation, not so much from trouble but in the middle of it.

Timothy has the power (from the Spirit) for godliness not just the appearance of it. He's been called to guard the gospel - the healthy teaching he's heard - by the Spirit who lives in him.

Timothy has been made wise since he was a child, taught the Scriptures by his grandmother and mother who believed before him. They've made him wise for salvation! The God-breathed words on the page are Spirit-words, power for godliness along with the Spirit who indwells him. Words that crash into my love of self and money and pleasure and not goods and not gods, and call us to a true love, to self-control etc. Words that correct and reprove and rebuke and get us ready for everything good ahead of us.
Life is bumpy when you read the Bible.
The fool looks godly but the wise man knows his heart better. The fool is confident and the wise know they have nothing in themselves. They might even despair at times because of their sin, intimidated by brash fools... Yet, the truly wise know their faults and turn to Christ in the middle of it all.

Fools can do vulnerability too. The secular world today is increasingly talking about it and so are Christians. Fools mimic the wise. Honesty about our hearts is good,... and our life and words betray and reveal our hearts even if we don't think they do. But, for The Fool it's just an AA meeting an no hope of change.

The wise can speak of sin as sin and repent to Christ with their wrong-heartedness and know the change that can only come through the Spirit-breathed Scripture and the Spirit's indwelling.

The Spirit breathes through the Scriptures and the Spirit-indwells. The wise find power and love and self-control against the dying breathes of their sinful flesh, as the Spirit draws them into the life of God. The Spirit-indwelt bind themselves to the Scriptures. They go to the Bible to find Christ and he shines, and he walks off the pages into their lives. Not for knowledge or expertise or quarreling disputes but for a deep application of the gospel in their lives. You can never get enough of that. Never enough of Christ.

The Spirit speaks to make us wise, through the gospel of Christ, our Spirit-filled hearts awakened to love good and love God, to know his rescue. This isn't gospel for the ABC but for the A to Z. The wise have a new heart in which the Spirit lives, they respond to the Spirit-breathed word. They're fundamentally different to fools, though superficially similar. 

Time, and exposure to the gospel-filled Scriptures, will tell.


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