A Fool and His Folly

    “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs,
    Rather than a fool in his folly.”
    (Proverbs 17:12)

Watch out! On April 1st, practical jokes, pranks, hoaxes and playful lies will spike. It’s not a day for excessive trust. Maybe I should go for a hike that day–in bear country!

The origins for April Fools’ Day go back beyond reliable tracing. The roots for foolishness go back even farther. The Bible portrays foolishness in deadly serious terms. Proverbs indicates that fools despise wisdom (Proverbs 1:7), have “lying lips” (17:7), and refuse to turn from evil (13:19). Elsewhere, we read, “Anger resides in the bosom of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9). Finally, “the complacency of fools will destroy them.” (Proverbs 1:32).

Are you complacent?

But isn’t there a place for a little foolish fun? One famous April Fool hoax took place in a BBS television show on April 1, 1957, which reported a bumper spaghetti crop being harvested from Swiss spaghetti trees. The dreaded “spaghetti weevil” bug had finally been eradicated, or so they said. In 1962, a Swedish broadcast claimed that a nylon stocking over a TV screen would make the picture come through in color. Their in-depth explanation of the physics behind this phenomenon fooled thousands. Ha!

In 1511, a brilliant scholar in Northern Europe named Erasmus published a book titled, The Praise of Folly. In it, he recognized both the pleasure and the peril in foolishness. Pouring on the irony, Folly (the main character) praises herself constantly, thinking she is indispensable. Her self-praise leads to self-deception which is the highest form of folly—and the most dangerous. In short, fun is fine but it does not hold a candle to truth.

Let’s get serious. With the advent of the internet, readily shows, and entertainment news, it seems like every day is April 1st in America today. The blogosphere is full of baloney. Journalists and candidates invent heroic biographies. Some pretend to be minorities claiming the benefits that come with that status. Protesters often riot on false pretenses. E-mail scams, identity theft, media hoaxes, doctored photos, fake videos, false advertisements, phony phone calls, politician promises, and get-rich-quick schemes are just a few of the pot-holes that litter our cultural highway today. And they work like charms.

The ancient Greeks and Romans saw seriousness as a high virtue. The Greeks called it, semnos. In Latin, it’s gravitas. In both classic cultures, it was a virtue to be august, dignified, respectful and serious. The apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to be “semnos” (1 Timothy 2:2) and told him that any elders and deacons he might appoint in the church should be men of “semnos” (1 Timothy 3:4 and 3:8). An early Christian theologian, Clement of Alexandra (150 – 215 AD), defined gravitas as “a life turned toward the divine.”

Today, there seems to be as little semnos or gravitas as there is shame. Just turn on a TV. Much of our popular culture is designed to fool you into ignoring the serious side of life. Focus only on fun and Jesus’ central message of repentance and forgiveness will be lost on you. And you will be seriously lost.

God’s word teaches; “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Just don’t laugh at other people’s expense. A well-timed silly side is important. But at all times, whether weeping or laughing, apply wisdom. Beware of lovely liars, funny fools, slick charmers, hustlers, seducers, and snake-oil peddlers. Your chances are better with a mama bear in the wild.

So, have fun on April Fools’ Day but don’t live an April Fool’s life. The consequences of foolishness are hard to bear.

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