Proverbs 14:7 ESV
Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
As is appropriate for a doctor’s website, today’s proverb is about an infection. This infection, however, is of the spirit, not the body. Being around fools, particularly when you listen to them, is bad for your spiritual health. Listening to fools, after all, not only does not net you worthwhile speech, it gets you outright foolish speech. In other words, not only does it lack merit, but foolish company poses a danger which must be guarded against.
The tongue, as the classic passage in James 3 warns us, is a powerful thing. The tongue guided Adam and Eve to the damnation of their descendants; the tongue, in the written and spoken form of His Word, has instructed every person who is saved since the first page of Genesis was written. The poison and healing of the tongue are not to be underestimated- even when we aren’t paying attention (particularly when we aren’t paying attention) it has influence.
Regardless of your opinion on subliminal messaging and the like, you can easily see the truth of this maxim. At its simplest level, this is our human tendency to pick up the nearest accent all willy-nilly, given enough time. Our vocabulary too is changed, and vocabulary is only the first level of this, for while some changes are innocuous- calling barbecue ‘barbie’ (pardon my Australian) or the like-, some changes are insidious- calling a man ‘she’ because that’s what everybody else does. Further changes may happen- perhaps you adopt a different way of thought, submit to peer pressure, are silent when you shouldn’t be, or otherwise change. Sometimes the change is even intentional, as with some media pushing the ‘virtue’ of homosexuality (link).
The dangers of imbibing such foolishness (out of carelessness or otherwise) are manifold. Proverbs is replete, after all, with warnings about it: destruction (1:32), disgrace (3:35), ruin (10:8,10), and immorality (13:19) are all unpleasant ends. That’s not to mention the effects it has on those around the fool, bringing them sorrow and bitterness aplenty (17:25, 19:13). The rest of the Bible speaks on this as well. Psalms condemns the fool to suffering (107:17); Zachariah to judgement (11:15-17); Matthew to damnation (7:24-26). We cannot afford to be fools. More importantly, to be a fool is to despise God (Psalm 14:1); to be a fool is to spurn the Lord of our salvation.
Now, the smaller foolishness we can so easily pick up is not automatically on the level of the foolishness portrayed in Psalm 14:1, thank God, else we would all be damned. Every sin, however, is a step closer to this final and foundational step. Every sin breaks the whole of the law (James 2:10); every sin is a declaration that the law is inferior to the sinner’s desires. Every sin, therefore, bolsters up the basis of the next, for in essence each is a denial of God and His law for one’s own desires. The guard we set up against the infecting foolishness of the world may easily catch the big sins, the outright denial, but the small, insidious sins which slip by it are, in the long run, fully capable of fostering destruction. Diligence, therefore, behooves.
What, then, should we do? Three measures are essential: discernment towards the world, prudence regarding friends, and prioritization of the good.
The first measure is discernment. We are to be in the world but not of it (John 17:15-19), and this duty means we are to walk among the world’s things and see them for what they are, treat them as what they are. Sinful men should be treated as sinful men- broken, though made in His image-; sinful speech should be treated as sinful speech, to be understood but not accepted; sinful ideas should be treated as sinful ideas, often to be understood but never to be believed. All things we hear we should set against the Word of God (Acts 17:11), to see if they match it, to be discarded if they do not.
The second measure is choosing good friends. This proverb specifically mentions ‘the presence of a fool’, and we should recognize that those whom we spend our time around- friends, family, wife, husband, etc.- are the people who will influence us the most. If their presence is foolish, it’s not going to be remedied by the wise presence of the cashier at the grocery store (if you happen to find such a thing). We should therefore strive to enter into the company of good and wise men, that iron might sharpen iron (Prov. 27:17) (though this does not absolve us of our evangelistic duty or the obligation to be loving in accomplishing it).
The third measure is prioritizing the good in our thoughts, and by good, I mean ‘God and that which God gives us to think upon’. In other words, we are to meditate upon His law (Ps. 119:27), upon His Word (Jer. 15:16), and upon Him (Phil. 4:8). He is to be our highest thought and greatest treasure. From this basis we can accomplish the first two measures, can discern the world and the fittingness of friends (and from no other). This standard is that by which we walk with God. In the words of Psalm 119:9, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” This command does not apply only to adolescent males.
We have a responsibility to guard our hearts, that we may walk in wisdom before the Lord. This duty is great, but it is not onerous, when properly understood. To live in the light of God’s Word is a joyous life; to turn away from it the path of darkness. We should therefore strive towards the first, taking care that the sin of the world does not infect us, for sin is a worse pathogen than any virus or mold in creation, rotting not merely the body but the soul.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.