The Fool and the Lazy

The Fool and the Lazy

Text: Proverbs 26:3-16


The Fool

(Proverbs 26:3-12)

            Because a fool refuses to learn, he has to be controlled by stronger measures. A whip or bridle is not a tool for punishment but a way of controlling a stubborn beast. Indirectly this is saying that fools lack reasoning and are stubborn, like animals (Psalms 32:9). And, sadly, one of the few ways of getting useful work out of a fool is through punishment.

            Two seemingly conflicting ideas are purposely placed together to force the reader to consider how they are both true. If an action is deemed foolish, then responding in the same fashion is equally foolish (I Peter 3:9). Therefore, when dealing with fools we must be careful not to respond in an equally foolish manner. However, we need to answer him as his foolishness requires. For example, a foolish argument delivered in sarcasm is sometimes effectively answered with sarcasm. People don’t expect to be answered back in a similar way, and it can make them think. Another way is to answer a poorly formed thought with humor to make the person think (Titus 1:12-13). Sometimes a person’s pride must be wounded before he will use his head (Isaiah 5:21).

            You harm yourself when you rely on a fool to perform a critical task. A messenger, in a sense an extra pair of legs, to be somewhere you cannot be. But when you rely on a fool as messenger, you are cutting off your own legs. In addition, the message will likely be garbled, causing get damage. Similar proverbs warned against relying on the lazy (Proverbs 10:26) and the wicked (Proverbs 13:17). Relying on a trustworthy person is refreshing (Proverbs 25:13).

            Proverbs told by fools are useless as a lame man’s legs (Psalms 50:16-21). Even if what he says is correct, his own life contradicts his words. However, more likely a fool can’t retain a proverb anyway since he refuses to learn. Any proverb he knows won’t impact his own life. Similar proverbs are Proverbs 17:7; 26:9.

            A sling operates by placing a stone in a pouch held by two strings. As it is twirled around, the stone is released by letting go of one string. But if the stone is bound to the pouch, you won’t have to worry about dropping the stone while trying to get the sling to twirl, but then the stone won’t go anywhere when you release the string. The point is honoring a fool is useless. It might seem like a good idea at first, but won’t profit in the end. The honor won’t stop him from being a fool. This is similar to Proverbs 26:1.

            A drunk may get a thorn stabbed into his hand and not immediately notice that he has hurt himself until later. In the same way a fool will repeat proverbs thinking that they will make him appear wise. It won’t be until later that he will see that those same proverbs makes his own behavior look bad. An illustration of this is the man with one talent in Luke 19:20-23.

            There is a very wide variation in translations of Proverbs 26:10 due to the uncertainty of meaning given to several keywords in the proverb:

                       “The great God who formed everything gives the fool his hire and the transgressor his wages” (NKJV)

                      “Like an archer who wounds everyone, so is he who hires a fool or who hires those who pass by.” (NASB)

                      “Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.” (ESV)

The majority of translations lean toward the NASB style of interpretation. It does fit the similitude style better than the KJV and NKJV. When you make use of a fool or any random person, you harm others randomly. You need to know who you hire because you are putting trust in that person to complete a job.

            Foolish people don’t learn, so they tend to repeat their mistakes. They seem convinced that the same actions will reproduce a different outcome the next time. An example of this is seen in Pharaoh (Exodus 8:15). Peter quotes this proverb and applies it those are not fully converted to the Gospel (II Peter 2:22).

            A person who thinks he is smart learns less than a fool (I Corinthians 3:18-19; 8:1-2). The proud doesn’t think he needs to learn, while a fool just refuses to learn.


The Lazy

(Proverbs 26:13-16)

            A lazy person will imagine dangers to avoid work (Proverbs 22:13). Notice that the second excuse, that there is a lion in the market place, even less believable than the first excuse.

            A lazy man is like a hinged door, he moves but gets nowhere and accomplishes nothing. He’ll stay in bed all day if he could (Proverbs 6:10; 24:33). Even when he “works” nothing is accomplished.

            A lazy man wants but is too lazy to get it, even when it needs little effort to obtain (Proverbs 19:24). Worse, because his hand is buried in the dish that others are supposed to share, he keeps others from gaining or enjoying.

            The lazy person thinks he is smarter than most other people. Why seven? Seven is a perfect set. Here is a perfect set of sensible people. Thus, while doing nothing, the lazy considers himself a genius.


Note that both the section on the fool and the lazy end with the point that each thinks he is wise in his own eyes. Both foolishness and laziness leads to pride.