The Word of God is replete with warnings about walking with fools, concerning behaving foolishly, but before we discuss the ramifications of doing so, let’s carefully consider the meaning of the word “fool”.
According to Webster’s Dictionary*, a fool is someone who is “destitute of reason”, or who “does not exercise his reason”; a person who “acts absurdly”, or one who “pursues a course contrary to the dictates of wisdom”. Webster further tells us that one who “plays the fool” is someone who acts like a “buffoon”, or who “trifles” or “toys (plays)”, one who “spends time in idleness”.
Common phrases and expressions using the word fool include: “To fool away time.”; “To make a fool of oneself.”; “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”; “A fool and his money are soon parted”; “To the foolish, every utterance of nonsense seems like wisdom.”; “A fool always finds a greater fool to admire him.”; and, “Only a fool tests the water with both feet.”, among others.
Most importantly, the Scriptures infer a fool is “a wicked or depraved person, one who acts contrary to sound wisdom in his moral deportment; one who follows his own inclinations, who prefers trifling or temporary pleasures to the service of God.”* We see that, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.” (Psalm. 14:1, Psalm. 53:1); and, “Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7). The Word also tells us that, “It is as sport to a fool to do mischief.” (Proverbs 10:23); that a “fool’s mouth is his destruction.” (Proverbs 18:7). We know that, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” (Proverbs 22:15); that “A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.” (Proverbs 17:5); that “A wise son maketh a glad father, but a foolish man despiseth his mother.” (Proverbs 15:20).
When we consider our children’s companions, those they spend time with, we need to ask ourselves whether they're walking with the wise or are companions of fools. The Bible says, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” (Proverbs 13:20). That weighty admonition shouldn't be ignored or dismissed, it should be at the fore of our thinking where our children's friendships are concerned. If “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child”, which the Word of God tells us it is, do we really believe it profitable for our children to spend copious amounts of time in the company of their peers, and particularly without our oversight?
Some may think it’s unrealistic or unnecessary to be as thoughtful in this area as we’re suggesting, or perhaps may even believe that kind of diligence will do more harm than good, will keep our children from standing on their own two feet, from knowing how to survive in the “real world”. We understand that mindset, but may we lovingly suggest it's not God’s. If it was, He wouldn’t have had as much to say about the dangers of walking with fools as He does. He wouldn’t have given as many exhortations as He has to walk with the wise. It’s imperative that we, as parents, conform our thinking to fit His expressed Word and purpose, and not continue to cling to our own reasoning, our own understanding because it’s convenient or easy. As parents, we're called to live sacrificially in order to do our part to raise godly offspring. God will do what He will with our children and with our efforts, but we are accountable for the responsibility He has set before us.
We remember that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”. As parents, what “good works” might we be “furnished” for? For “Train(ing) up a child in the way he should go.” (Proverbs 22:6). One of the ways we do that is by giving careful consideration to the examples set forth for us in the Scriptures, by heeding those examples when it comes to what influences we will and will not permit in the lives of our children.
For instance, we have a pretty powerful example of what happens when children are left to their own devices in 2 Kings 2, where we find a group of children mocking the prophet, Elisha. Their end was gruesome, all forty-two were killed by bears. Their sin? Being fools … being unwise. The end result? Destruction.
Jesus himself gives us a wonderful and compelling example when, at the tender age of 12, He is “about His Father’s business”, growing in “wisdom and stature”, finding “favour with God and man”. (Luke 2). He wasn’t goofing off with His peers, rather He was sitting “in the temple”, listening to “sound teaching and asking questions”. He was “walking with the wise”.
When we consider the above definitions and examples of the word fool, can we honestly tell ourselves that those things don’t apply to the behaviour of the vast majority of children, of youth, even those within our churches? Think for a moment of the last time you observed a group of children or teenagers. Did any of them “act absurdly”, fail to “exercise reason”, “play the fool”, act like a “buffoon”, roll their eyes or otherwise exhibit through their body language that they “despise wisdom and instruction”, consider it a “sport to do mischief”, or utter “foolish words with his mouth”?
As parents, we're to be our children’s example, modeling godly behaviour before them, faithfully discipling them, teaching them the ways of the Lord. We are to be the “wise” ones our children walk with. We are not to rely on others, be it youth pastors, children’s ministers, Sunday school teachers, etc., to do our job. We are not to be lazy or to become “weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9). We’re to buck the trend and reject the culture of our day, to embrace the culture of the Word by pouring out our very lives for the sake of our children’s souls, for their long term well-being on this earth, and for the generations who’ll follow. This is our life.
We’re all familiar with Deuteronomy 6, we’ve probably read it dozens of times, but let’s read it again … slowly, carefully, prayerfully. What are we told to do? We’re told to observe God’s commandments, His statutes, His judgments. We’re to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our might. And then what? We’re to teach these things diligently to our children. When? When we sit in our houses. When we walk outside. When we lie down. When we rise up. We are to do that which is right and good in His sight. And we’re to tell our children all that the Lord has done for us, how He delivered us out of
, out of slavery, teaching them that we’re not to go after or embrace the gods of our day. Notice the multi-generational blessing of doing so! Egypt
1Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it:
2That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.
3Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey.
: The LORD our God is one LORD: Israel
5And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.
10And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,
11And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full;
12Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
13Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.
14Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;
15(For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.
16Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.
17Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee.
18And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers.
19To cast out all thine enemies from before thee, as the LORD hath spoken.
20And when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD our God hath commanded you?
21Then thou shalt say unto thy son, We were Pharaoh's bondmen in
Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of with a mighty hand: Egypt
22And the LORD shewed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes:
23And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers.
24And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day.
25And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.
And what about Psalm 1? Again, let’s read it slowly, carefully, prayerfully …
1Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
If a man, a grown man, is not to walk in the counsel of the ungodly, or stand with sinners, or sit with the scornful, how much more important is it to ensure our children are not doing so? Critically so. “Oh”, we say, “Our children are with other Christians. They are not with the ungodly, or sinners, or the scornful.”. Really? We know that with certainty? Then let's stand in the shadows of almost any youth gathering and watch and listen. Observe the demeanour, the dress, listen to the words, the tone, visit the Facebook pages. Then tuck our heads into our collars and tell ourselves that our children are not being unduly influenced by those who care more for the world than for the Word. Tell ourselves that our children are not the companions of fools, are not fools themselves.
Don’t misunderstand what we’re saying. Just as we're being sanctified day by day, so too are our children, so too are those children who are in Christ, but who are so inundated by the culture of our day that they, themselves, often can’t see their own folly. We’re not trying to be harsh or critical of those precious young people, young people who need parents to come alongside them, to disciple them as the Bible commands parents to do, and where we, in the case where there are no parents to take up that mantle, with much care, are to take them into our families, mindful of any possible negative influence upon our own children, and love on them, mentor them, disciple them, but within the confines of a family, not left to the influence of their peers, or even to a so-called youth pastor or children’s church leader who may or may not have children of his own, who may or may not be walking in the wisdom of the Lord.
And so, we come back to the question, are our children walking with the wise, or are they walking with fools? And we pray as the Psalmist did, “Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth” (Psalm 86:11)
*Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, which reflects the truly biblical mindset of many of a bygone era.