Growing up, you probably heard the phrase "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." In fact, you may have even said this yourself. But the truth is, that phrase is totally wrong. I would venture to say that every person can remember at least one moment in life when someone has said something to us that remains with us today. Maybe a parent told you that you could lose a few pounds. Or a classmate said you're annoying. Maybe a boss criticized your work in front of a group of colleagues. Whatever it is for you, it proves that age-old phrase to be false.
Words have the power to destroy or restore life. Words are powerful.
This week in our Proverbial Fool series, we're taking a look at the proud fool - scoffer.
WEEK 4: THE PROUD FOOL
In Proverbs 13, Solomon introduces us to the scoffer. He says the scoffer doesn't listen to rebuke, his soul feeds on violence, and his lips shall have destruction. In just three verses, Solomon proves to us that words can hurt us.
"You have never spoken a neutral word in your life. Either your talk brings life or brings death." -Paul Tripp
In Proverbs 4:24, he instructs, "Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you." We are directed in this book to stop speaking words that tear people down. Instead, to get as far away from becoming a scoffer. But how do we do that?
Luke 6:43-45 says, "For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure in his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." In other words, trying to stop speaking hurtfully or saying bad words is like buying a bag of apples and taping them on a rotten tree. The state of our hearts are revealed in our words. In order to fix the problem - to produce good fruit - we need to figure out the root issue.
STORY OF A SCOFFER
A scoffer can also be described as a mocker, scorner, and babbler. They're the fools who ridicule people constantly. In the Bible, a great example of a scoffer is Nabal. In first Samuel 25, we learn that Nabal (the Greek word for fool) is a man who had material riches, but had no riches in character. He was a fool and a scoffer. Somehow, he was lucky enough to be married to Abigail (meaning a father's joy), who was kind-hearted and beautiful.
As the story goes, David sent his men to talk to Nabal with kindness, offering peace. Nadal, as a scoffer does, rebuked them and offended David's name. When David heard about Nabal's response, he decided to send his men to fight.
When David encountered a scoffer, he had to decide how to react. Proverbs 26:4-5 gives us two options:
- Verse 4: Don't respond to a fool, or you'll be like him.
- Verse 5: Respond to a fool, or he'll think he's wise.
These seem like such contrasting statements, but they actually aren't contrasting. They're simply giving us a choice. This is where the Lord comes in, because we have to rely on Him for guidance. The response really changes based on the situation.
FRUIT VS. ROOT
Take a look at this list to see the fruit that scoffers produce, and the root behind that behavior:
- Arrogant | Self-Competence
- Cusser | Self-Satisfaction
- Liar | Self-Preservation
- Talker | Self-Deception
- Joker | Self-Glory
- Flatterer | Self-Adultion
- Gossiper | Self-Comparison
- Complainer | Self-Exhaltation
Do you notice a theme? Self, self, self self, self. Scoffers are all about themselves. The bad fruit that's produced is a result of idolizing self and making ourselves the most important thing.
Jesus, of course!
2 Corinthians 5:15: "He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again."
We have to die to self in order to avoid becoming this proverbial fool. Once Jesus takes over in our hearts, our words will flow from a place of life, rather than death. Words have the power to bring life or death, so let's make an effort for our words to be words of encouragement and life.