In the book of Proverbs, the fool is presented to us, as the opposite of a wise person.  To understand precisely how a wise person would be described, I think it is essential to know the characteristics of a fool.  Looking at the list of the most common characteristics below, built up from the book of Proverbs, we may see aspects of foolish behavior within ourselves and the people around us.  The Bible warns us…

“…walk circumspectly not as fools, but as wise.” (Eph 5:15 KJV)

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise,” (Eph 5:15 NIV)

God wants us to be wise in how we live our lives. 

A word of warning to ladies, don’t make a mistake in thinking that since the fool is referred to as a ‘he’ in Proverbs that foolish behavior is not characteristic of women.  When one looks at the characteristics below, it is easy to recognise it in many a woman today.


Here are some of the fool’s characteristics:

  1. He has a closed mind and despises wisdom: in fact, a fool will avoid wise people, (Prov 15:12) scorning their company and resenting any form of correction (Prov 1:7). His mind feeds on foolishness and foolish things (Prov 15:14)
  2. Not careful with his mouth, prone to slander, gossip, emotional outburst, tempers, meddles in the affairs of others. They unleash their anger (Prov 29:11); stir up hatred (Prov 29:8); cause strife and quarrels (Prov 22:10); lash out when discovered in their folly (Prov 17:12); are easily annoyed (Prov 12:16) and are endangered by their own words (Prov 18:6-8); are hot-headed and reckless (Prov14:16).
  3. Sensual: they live for today with no future plans, no thought to their actions, easily enticed and intrigued. Prov 21:24 tells us they are proud and arrogant and think any good advice is useless (Prov26:7).  They trust in themselves (Prov 28:26); pursue elusive dreams (Prov 17:24) and then blame God for their failure (Prov 19:3). They lack judgement (Prov 10:21) and don’t plan or prepare for the future (Prov 21:20)
  4. Self-expression is very important, and they delight in expressing their opinion. They are proud and arrogant (Prov 21:24)  and their way seems right to them (Prov 12:15); they are happy to express their opinions (Prov 18:2)
  5. Repeat mistakes and are not teachable. Even punishment does not get their attention (Prov 17:10), they scorn good advice (Prov 23:9) and repeat the same mistakes (Prov 26:11), they don’t want to change their foolishness (Prov 27:22; 13:19) and don’t make amends for their wrongdoing (Prov 14:9)
  6. Put their hope in their resources: money, time, relationships. Stingy with it. (Prov 21:25-26), use it up (Prov 21:20)
  7. He rejects God in all his ways and “says in his heart, there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1)

Proverbs 26:10 (KJV) tells us that the foolish life does have consequences: “The great God that formed all things both rewards the fool, and rewards transgressors.” 

There are both natural and spiritual consequences to a life that chooses a foolish path:

The natural consequences are (KJV):

  • Psalm 107:17 – “Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.”
  • Proverbs 10:8 – “The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.”
  • Proverbs 10:14 – “Wise men lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish is near
  • Proverbs 1:32 – “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.”
  • Proverbs 3:35 – “The wise inherit honor,but fools get only shame.”

The spiritual consequences are (KJV):

  • 1 Corinthians 1:18 – “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
  • Proverbs 18:7 – “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.”
  • Psalms 5:5 – “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.”

When you look around at the friends you keep and the people in the circle of your life, can you recognize a fool by the characteristics listed above? OR can you recognize some of the above attributes in your life?  There is no place for pride in saying: “I am not a fool,” since all of us are prone to foolish behavior.  However, we can circumspectly guard against foolish behavior in our lives.

Again, scripture encourages us to seek out the company of people who demonstrate that they are  wise and also warns us against associating with fools:

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Prov 13:20)

Just as important as it is to seek wisdom from the Lord as we have demonstrated in the last few weeks, it is equally important to avoid the characteristics of a fool. I hope I have given you something to think about.

Father God, help me to examine my life circumspectly and identify whether the characteristics of a fool are present in my own life so that I may confess these and repent in my behavior and thinking.  Help me to live a wise life and associate and learn from wise people.  Help me pursue wisdom as a characteristic of my life, starting with a love for your Word and a willingness to implement it into my life.

What Does Wisdom Look Like? (next in 10 part series on Wisdom)

Two Kinds of Wisdom (previous)

Guarding Your Heart

Four Benefits of Being Circumspect