What an amazing thing – having a whole day designated for celebrating fools and foolishness! April Fool’s Day, April 1, marks the start of a new month, and brings with it motivation to pull little pranks on each other, all in the name of “April fool!”
Some experts historically – or hysterically – trace the origins of April Fool’s Day, also known as All Fools Day, as far back at 1582 in France, upon switching from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.
But others say the “holiday” actually began in 1700, when the tradition of playing practical jokes on one another was birthed in jolly old England.
Regardless of when it formally began, one day a year for a little lighthearted foolery seems fine. In reality, however, foolishness and being a fool are no laughing matter. Judging by what some folks say and do, it seems that for them, “fool’s day” is a year-round preoccupation.
We even have sayings especially devoted to addle-brained people. Essayist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau said, “Any fool can make a rule. And any fool will mind it.” Mark Twain said, “I was young and foolish; now I’m old and foolisher.” Benjamin Franklin observed, “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do.” More than two centuries have passed since then, but things seem not to have changed much.
We’ve all heard the adage of indefinite origin, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” Humorist Will Rogers offered a somewhat different view: “A fool and his money are soon elected.” That observation, too, seems to have weathered well the passage of time. In fact, thousands of years ago the writer of Proverbs said, “Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom” (Proverbs 17:16).
The Scriptures have much to say about the perils of fools and foolishness. In the book of Proverbs alone, we find dozens of warnings and admonitions about lacking wisdom and choosing folly instead. For instance, Proverbs 10:14-15 is straight-forward in contrasting the speech of the wise and the foolish:
“Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks judgment. Wise men store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.”
Proverbs 15:7 makes a similar observation: “The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.” If you’re in need of wise counsel and sound advice, consider the source!
Remember the adage, “Look before you leap”? Proverbs 14:8 offers a similar caution: “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” We find the same sentiment in Proverbs 15:21, which declares, “Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course.”
We’ve probably all encountered people during our lives who would fit the descriptions above. In recognizing the pitfalls of falling under the influence of foolish friends, the image evoked by the following verse is particularly powerful: “Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly” (Proverbs 17:12). Gulp!
Dozens of other passages advise us to steer clear of those who seem to revel in their own folly. However, perhaps what matters most is how we can avoid falling into the same trap. Because in our fallen world, foolishness isn’t hard to find.
I’ve cited the following verses before, but they’re worth pondering again. Proverbs 1:7 declares, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Maybe one reason we live in such foolish, nonsensical times is that we’ve drifted away from the fear of the Lord.
Another commonly cited verse teaches, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Similarly, Proverbs 2:6 promises, “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
So, as another April 1 arrives with its celebration of fools and folly, go ahead – enjoy pulling a harmless prank or two, or allow yourself to play victim to someone else’s trickery. But let the day also serve as a reminder of the dangerous snares of perpetual foolishness. As Proverbs 28:26 warns, “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.”
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.