The word “fool” doesn’t get as much use now as it once did. If one of my mates does something profoundly stupid I don’t usually cry out “you fool”. I might say “you are such an idiot” or “what a goose”. I’m sure many people you know would use much more colourful language than that. Fool is one of those sort of quaint, old words that generally conjures up images of a court jester or maybe some act of silliness. There’s a very prestigious competition held every year called the Darwin awards. It gives recognition to..well, fools. And often fools who have made fatal mistakes. Here’s some of the award winners from 2006:
• Two teenagers in Britain where so into Star Wars that they wanted to re-create the light-sabre fighting scenes. So they got two fluorescent tubes, opened them up and poured petrol down it, then set them alight. One of them died, the other escaped with serious burns.
• A man was travelling by train home from work in the US. He fell asleep and missed his stop. He so wanted to get home that he pried open the train doors and jumped out. What he hadn’t considered was that the train was travelling at 80km/h across a bridge over a deep ravine at the time. Needless to say, he did not survive.
• In Croatia a man named Marko wanted to clean his chimney. He went to his workshop to build a tool to clean it. It was a very high chimney and his broom was too short. However, he planned to attach it to a chain, weigh it down at one end with a metal object and hang it in from the roof. He found what he thought was the perfect metal object –heavy yet small - and went about welding it to the chain. Somehow he overlooked that the object was a hand grenade and filled with explosive material. Very soon after heating up the welder there was a loud explosion. Marko was killed instantly, his workshop destroyed and the windows of several cars shattered. His chimney remained untouched.
These are indeed very foolish people. They did things without thinking through the consequences. And that’s sort of what a fool is. Someone who ignores the consequences of their actions. But the way the Bible, or more specifically, the NIV translation that we’re using this week, uses the word fool has nothing to do with silly mistakes or immature behaviour. It’s nothing to be laughed at or joked about. When the Bible uses the word fool it is to refer to actions that are deeply misguided and have incredibly serious consequences. It’s talking about an attitude that is inherently wicked. It’s no trifling matter to be called a fool by God.
Who is the fool in Psalm 14? Well, according to vs. 1 it’s those who say in their hearts “there is no God”.
Now in a group this size I reckon there will always be someone who thinks of themselves as an atheist – a person who doesn’t believe in God. Or maybe an agnostic – a person who thinks the question about God’s existence is so irrelevant that effectively they don’t believe in God, either. Those might be new terms to you this morning. While technically they’re different beliefs, in effect they lead to the same place.