Voices

Three-two-one

Some fools rush into folly; others meander

Issue: "Not angry anymore," Dec. 1, 2007

There are three kinds of fools by my reading of Proverbs. There is the fist-shaking fool who knows not at Whom he rants and raves: "Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit" (Proverbs 1:11-12). Of his number are those who "cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble" (Proverbs 4:16).

The second is the fool whose turpitude does not even rise to the level of interesting sin, but he sinks in his torpor, slouches in his sloth, and wallows in his middling wantonness. He commits adultery, not so much out of highhanded rebellion as ennui: He falls in with "the forbidden woman . . . the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God" (Proverbs 2:16-17). Also in this pretty kettle of fish is he who "follows worthless pursuits" (Proverbs 12:11) and the slothful man who "will not roast his game" (Proverbs 12:27). (There is bleeding between the categories.)

The third fool is the one who "means well" but is ignorant of the law, or of his times, or of his very heart. My own children, when ensnared, are wont to plead ignorance as innocence, but I tell them we have manslaughter as well as murder on the books, and both are punishable. Ignorance is culpable when you should have known better, and when by a thousand culpable past choices you failed to apprise yourself of the state of things. This fool is the "simple" man (Proverbs 14:15); he is the man not paying attention. He is the one Jesus rebuked for not knowing his times (Matthew 16:3).

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It seems to me I have often dabbled in categories 1 and 2 with far less outward consequence than have been recently meted on me by a category 3, which this fall cost me my job. (Meaning well, I sent small class pictures of my students to a prayer partner who is in prison.)

There are two kinds of choices when you are found in a life implosion, and suicide is one of them. On that track there is the swift kind, favored by Judas and Ahithophel, and the protracted, popular method-entrenched denial, alcohol, television stupor. Or you simply say to yourself, "I messed up so bad I won't even bother trying to do right anymore. What's the use?"

The alternative is to remember that the fundamental things apply in cataclysms as well as calm times. To wit: Do the right thing; one foot in front of the other; one piece of the problem at a time; take lunch, exercise, sleep. I remember the counselor Jay Adams saying that the trouble is not usually that we don't know what to do but that we don't do it long enough. We give up just before the breakthrough would have come. Like Screwtape said, "It is so hard for these creatures to persevere." But persevering is what it's all about. Persevering is just faith with Nikes on.

There is One who saves from all my folly, no questions asked. There is One who knows that I committed at least 10 worse sins that day than the sin that brought me down: I coveted, I lusted, I gossiped, I judged, I lied to avoid some unpleasantness, I neglected my kids, I was lazy, I drove so as to endanger. For none of these was I subjected to public opprobrium; for none did I blanket the town with apologies. He it is I trust with the mind-boggling asymmetry of consequences.

Praise be to God who sorts all things out with justice, so that we need not overly exert ourselves with bloviated self-defense. My conscience is clear but that does not make me innocent (1 Corinthians 4:4). Jesus' conscience was clear and He was innocent. He did not agitate but "continued entrusting Himself to the One who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:23). And if it's good enough for Him it's good enough for me.

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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