Playing The Fool

Title: Playing The Fool

Bible Book: 1 Samuel 26 : 21

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: Fool; Foolish



Have you ever noticed how often the word “fool” appears in the Bible? There are several different Hebrew and Greek terms which are translated “fool,” and all totaled they appear more than a hundred and ten times. Further, related terms such as “foolish” appear more than eighty times. Thus, it is obvious that God intends for us to give careful attention to the subject of “fools” and “foolishness.”

The word “fool” is used in a number of different ways in the Bible.

In the first century, when Jesus walked the earth, some folks used the word “fool” to express burning hatred for another person. It was in regard to that type of usage that Jesus said, in Matthew 5:22: “...whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” Jesus was referring to using the word as an expression of malice so deep-seated and intense as to contain the seeds of murder, whether or not it ever resulted in the physical act. Jesus was telling us that a person who harbors that kind of poisonous, contemptuous attitude is likely not saved, and is in danger of going out into eternity in that lost condition.

In writing to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul used the words “fool” and “foolishness” several times. Many of the people at Corinth considered themselves to be intellectually superior to Paul and his associates, and to them the message of the gospel didn’t make sense. Paul wrote in 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.” He said in verse 25 that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” In reality, of course, there is neither foolishness nor weakness with God. But Paul is saying that what sinful men regard as foolishness on God’s part is vastly and profoundly wiser than men at their very best. Also, what sinful men view as weakness on God’s part is immeasurably stronger than anything that men can produce.

In 1 Corinthians 4:10 Paul engaged in a bit of divinely inspired sarcasm when he wrote, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised.” Paul was saying, in effect, “I realize that you folks regard our labors for Christ as foolish and inferior - but so be it; we are determined to do what God has called us to do, whatever you think about it.”

But even though the word “fool” is used in several different ways in the Scriptures, one of its most frequent uses is to denote moral and spiritual heedlessness, resulting in disobeying and dishonoring God - in other words, resulting in sin. That is clearly the way the word is used in the Scripture text that we will focus on this morning, found in 1 Samuel 26.

But before I read our text, let me first explain the background of the verse we’re to consider. Saul, because he had flagrantly disobeyed God, was “on his way out” as king of Israel. David, who would soon be named as his successor, was already a hero among the people, and Saul was extremely jealous of him, to the point that he was determined to hunt David down and kill him. Finally he traced David to a wilderness area, but couldn’t pinpoint his exact location, so he and his three thousand soldiers set up camp for the night. While they were asleep, David and one of his trusted aides slipped into their camp. Saul’s spear was stuck in the ground near his head, and his canteen was also lying close by. David stealthily took the spear and the canteen, slipped away, and when he was a great distance off called to Abner, Saul’s bodyguard, and taunted him for not keeping closer watch over the king. Saul waked up, heard David’s voice, and realized what had happened. He knew that David could easily have taken his life, but had refused to do so. Now, let’s begin reading with verse 17: “And Saul knew David’s voice, and said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And David said, It is my voice, my lord, O king. And he said, Wherefore doth my lord thus pursue after his servant? for what have I done? or what evil is in mine hand? Now therefore, I pray thee, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If the Lord have stirred thee up against me, let him accept an offering; but if they be the children of men, cursed be they before the Lord; for they have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go, serve other gods. Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of the Lord: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains.”

Here, now, is the verse in which our text is found - verse 21: “Then said Saul, 'I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.'”

My subject today is, “Playing the Fool.”

I. Some WAYS of “Playing the Fool”

The Bible makes it clear that there are many different ways in which a person can be guilty of “playing the fool,” so the list I’m going to give is only representative, not exhaustive. It is also clear from the Scriptures that there are varying degrees to which a person may “play the fool.”

A. To deny God’s existence is the ultimate way of “playing the fool.”

In Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1 is this statement, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Anyone who denies God’s existence is simply ignoring the plain evidence. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.”In Romans 1:19-20 Paul wrote: “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”

If I told you that my wristwatch just happened to result from pieces of metal, plastic and glass accidentally falling together, you would think I was “off my rocker.” Anyone knows that an instrument like a watch had to have a designer and a maker. In like manner, it is the height of folly to look at this world with all of his wonders and complexities and conclude that it all “just happened.” According to the Bible, to deny God’s existence is to “play the fool.”

B. To have no fear of God, and to refuse to learn about him, is to “play the fool.”

Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

C. To blaspheme God's name is to "play the fool."

Psalm 74:18 points out still another way that people can “play the fool.”

“...foolish people have blasphemed thy name.”

In Exodus 20:7 we are reminded that “the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”

D. There are also other misuses of the tongue that amount to “playing the fool.”

Here are some of them: Proverbs 10:18, “He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.” Proverbs 14:8 declares that “the folly of fools is deceit.” Proverbs 29:11, “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterward.” Ecclesiastes 5:3 says that “a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.” Proverbs 18:7 says, “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.”

E. Anyone who takes sin lightly is “playing the fool.”

Proverbs 14:9 puts it plainly: “Fools make a mock of sin....”

F. In that same connection, listen to what the Bible says about engaging in destructive activity and considering it all a big joke.

Proverbs 10:23 says, “It is as sport to a fool to do mischief....”

G. We “play the fool” when we are too quick to get angry, or let our anger get out of control.

Proverbs 14:17 says, “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly...,” and Proverbs 27:3 says, “A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty: but a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both.”

H. Gaining wealth dishonestly also labels a person a fool.

Listen to Jeremiah 17:11: “As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.”

I. We also “play the fool” when we place undue emphasis on externals, yet allow ourselves to become corrupt within.

In Luke 11:39-40 we read: “And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?” The inspired writer declared, in Psalm 51:6, “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts....” He went on, then, in verse 10, to pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

J. Leaving God out of your planning, even if you believe in his existence, is one of the most flagrant ways of “playing the fool.”

Here’s how Jesus explained it in Luke 12:15-21: “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

K. One of the ways that believers can be guilty of “playing the fool” is by being slow to take God at his Word.

On the day that Jesus rose from the dead, two disciples were enroute to Emmaus. Luke 24:15 says, “And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.” Verses 16-17: “But their eyes were held that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?” Then - still not recognizing who it was that had joined them - they began to talk of how they had hoped Jesus would be Israel’s redeemer, but had been crucified. They went on to tell of how some had reported that he was alive - but as they talked, it was obvious that they didn’t believe those reports. Then, we read in Luke 24:25-27: “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”

We learn, then, that their eyes were opened, and in verse 32 we read: “And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”

Whenever any of us ignores the plain teaching of Scripture, we are guilty of “playing the fool.”

L. Still another way of “playing the fool” is to go to extremes in focusing on the the future

In other words, focusing on the future to the point that you neglect the present. That’s what Proverbs 17:24 is referring to, when it says that “the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.”

M. When We misuse precious, God-given time, we play the fool

Another sobering warning is found in Ephesians 5:15-17: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” Thus we are reminded that we are “playing the fool” when we misuse precious, God-given time.

N. We “play the fool” when we fail to understand the greatness of God.

Psalm 92:5-6: “O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.”

O. To intrude into things that are none of your business amounts to “playing the fool.”

Proverbs 20:3 says, “It is an honor for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.”

Now, consider with me what the Bible says regarding...

II. The CONSEQUENCES of “Playing the Fool”

A. Look at Saul’s case.

He began well, and had he continued on the right path he would no doubt have been an outstanding leader, and would have been remembered as one of the great heroes of faith. He had a lot going for him; he was tall and impressive; he was humble - at least in the beginning; and he had the support of the people when he started out. But he threw it all away. He behaved himself foolishly, in that he allowed egotism and jealousy to overcome him and cloud his judgment - and the final result was that he died prematurely, leaving a shameful, tragic legacy. We will always remember King Saul with sadness, and in terms of “what might have been.”

B. Consequences of playing the Fool

The fact is that whenever any of us “plays the fool” there are sad - and sometimes tragic - consequences. The Scriptures are replete with warnings to that effect.

1. “Playing the fool” eventually makes a person miserable, often brings punishment, and sometimes brings utter ruin.

Psalm 38:5, “My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.” Proverbs 3:35, “The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.” Proverbs 19:29, “Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools.” Proverbs 10:8, “The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.” Proverbs 1:32, “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.”

2. Everyone who “plays the fool” will have to answer to God for his folly.

Proverbs 26:10, “The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.” In Psalm 5:5 we read: “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” (When the Bible says that God “hates,” it means that he “rejects.” He doesn’t hate in the sense that man hates.)

To be so foolish as to reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior dooms a person to eternal hell. In John 3:36 Jesus said, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

Although all of us who are saved are assured of a home in heaven, whatever foolishness we have been guilty of in our daily walk as believers will result in our missing out on rewards in heaven that otherwise we would have received - and in this life, foolishness may very well result in God having to chastise us.

Well, if “playing the fool” is so God-dishonoring, so damaging, and so dangerous - and it is - then it behooves you and me to seek, by God’s grace, to avoid those pitfalls. God tells us in Proverbs 9:6, “Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.” So, let’s look now at...

III. The REMEDY for “Playing the Fool”

A. We don't have to continue playing the fool

Regardless of how flagrantly or frequently we may have “played the fool,” we don’t have to continue on that destructive path. Listen to the testimony of the inspired writer of Titus 3: 3-9: “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man, appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.”

B. God knows about it, of course, when we “play the fool.”

The author of Psalm 69:5 prayed, “O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.”

But he loves us in spite of our folly, in spite of our sin, and he stands ready to set us free and give us a new lease on life if we’ll call upon him. The author of Psalm 107:17-20 declared:

“Fools because of their transgressions, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”


1. If you’re not a Christian, God wants to save you from the folly of living apart from him and winding up in hell. Romans 6:23 says, For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” - and the way to receive that gift is to meet those two conditions set forth in Acts 20:21: “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” If you’ve never done so, turn to Jesus in repentance and faith, and trust him as your personal Lord and Savior. He’ll forgive your sins, and give you a new set of “want to’s,” and his Spirit will indwell you to empower you to move in the new direction that he sets before you. Then, when this life is over you’ll go to heaven instead of hell.

2. But maybe you’re a Christian already, yet you’ve strayed from the right path, and you’ve “played the fool” in some way or ways. Face up to your sinful folly, and claim the wonderful promise of 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Then, commit yourself afresh to the Lordship of Christ in your life, and he’ll help you to make a new start.

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