Do you know a person who seems to make the same mistakes over and over but can’t figure out why? He doesn’t set out with any bad intentions, but just does whatever seems to be the right thing at the moment with no consideration for the possible consequences in his life or anyone else’s? This is a description of what Proverbs describes as the simple fool. This is a person who is not necessarily stupid, but definitely lacks insight. The simple person is in a vulnerable position. They are usually young people who are naïve about the realities of life. They are easily persuaded by whoever seems to be the most attractive to them. Whatever their inner motivations are really craving; they will find someone who is offering it to them and they will be easily convinced by those people and follow them. The simple do not have deep rooted convictions that guide their decision making. They are open to just about anything that sparkles and attracts them to pleasure. They are people who like to take the path of least resistance since they don’t have conviction and grit to motivate them to endure a hard situation or decision. The simple person is ignorant and sometimes ignorant by choice. They are not willing to put in the effort to understand what is true, what is most profitable, what is wise. They want what is easy, fun and carefree.
A song written by a singer named Derek Webb illustrates this kind of person with music in this video called “New Law”:
1. They are Undiscerning
A. They Believe Falsehood
Proverbs 14:15-18 The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going. 16 A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident. 17 He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated. 18 The simple inherit folly: but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
The first and primary characteristic of the simple fool is that he/she is undiscerning. This person either doesn't have the skills or the desire to ask hard questions, think through tough issues or make sound judgment about people’s character, philosophical ideas, financial proposals, political positions or any other substantive issue. They are relationally inept as well – they get into all kinds of relationship trouble because they don’t have the discernment necessary to judge what kind of business partner or romantic relationship they are getting into. They often get burned by bad people because they couldn't read the signs about the person they were dating, getting married to or joining in some kind of venture. They believe every word that is told them and are easily fooled by con artists, manipulative people and abusive people who prey on the simple. Remember the story of Pinocchio?
Here’s a great example of a simple person who gets easily fooled into doing wrong:
The simple are like Pinocchio who almost lost his life following evil influences. He didn’t see what was coming as a result of the path that he decided to take. He didn’t start understanding his foolishness until the other kid started becoming a donkey, by then it was almost too late! In this passage, the man contrasted with the simple is the prudent.
Prudent - adjective, acting with or showing care and thought for the future.
The word “prudent” sounds so boring and unadventurous doesn’t it? But it is smart. The prudent person looks down the road and asks the hard questions with some measure of healthy fear. When the answers don’t look promising, he departs and saves himself. But the evil person is confident in his folly; he rages on and falls into the consequences of his own foolishness. So, in verse 18 the simple one inherits “folly”. If he doesn’t learn from this, he will chalk it up to “bad luck” or he didn’t get “a good break”. So, the simple will continue to inherit folly and wonder why he always seems to have all the bad luck.
B. They Follow Frivolity Proverbs 12:11 He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding.
Proverbs 28:19 NKJV He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!
Another person who is described as a simple person is one who is void or lacking understanding. But he who follows worthless pursuits has no sense: "Following worthless pursuits" means to give time and energy to things or undertakings that are useless. The simple person doesn’t have the discernment to understand what is weighty and what is superficial. He tends to waste his time on a lot of frivolous pursuits or follow frivolous people. Kids, teenagers and college age people are usually simpletons who do frivolous things: They hang out at the mall with friends, they waste hours on video games, they go cruising and eventually as they get older and more frivolities become legal for them, they frequent night clubs, go to bars with “friends” and waste their lives. Meanwhile the prudent is tilling his land and he is satisfied with the fruit of his labor. He has invested his life in things that matter and that benefit others, not only himself. Tilling the ground on the farm is not quite as fun as hanging out with friends at clubs and going to costume parties, but it is serious and important work. The simple person doesn’t really have any sense of the gravity of life and death. He just bops along in life going from one party to another and hoping for the best. This is why we need to teach our kids and teens about the gravity of life. Don’t let them stay kids forever! There is a common problem that is being recognized by the world and it has been labeled “Failure to launch”:
“Young adults are indeed becoming more difficult to coax out of their comfy childhood homes. Since the '70s, the number of 26-year-olds still living at home has nearly doubled! Here are the top four factors contributing to this change: They are unprepared They are overwhelmed or unmotivated to live independently. They would rather play it safe by occupying the family home, playing computer games, and delivering pizza. These kids often grow up living the life of the privileged. Here well-meaning parents provide their children with all the amenities congruent with an affluent lifestyle. The parents are focused on doing more for their children than what their parents did for them -- at the expense of keeping them dependent. Kids don't move out because they've got it made! They are cautious or clueless Parents do their kids a disservice by waiting until they are 17 or 18 before initiating career-related discussions. In our dynamic society where change is a daily diet, this is much too late! It's best to start young, at age 13. They have personal problems They don't have effective life coping skills, have failed relationships or are grieving some other loss or wrestling with a challenging life event. (divorced parents, sexual escapades, single parenthood, etc.) They have mounting debt They've accumulated significant credit card debt and moving back in with their parents is a way to pay it off. (due to simple or foolish lack of discernment) Kids can't learn to manage money if they don't have any, or if parents always pay for everything. If your offspring moves back home, I recommend you charge a nominal amount for room and board. Determine goals and stick to them Most parents enjoy having their children visit and will consider offering some short-term help. However, indulging an adult child's inaction does not help your son or daughter begins their own life. If your child defaults on your agreement, be willing to enforce consequences, to help him or her launch into responsible adulthood. ”
The lack of parental wisdom can account for the simple fools that they produce. Parents, you must absolutely beg God for wisdom so you can train your children with wisdom so that they don’t grow up to be fools who have to learn the hard way!
C. They Are Easily Deceived
Romans 16:17-19 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.
The simple are easily deceived by false doctrine, cults and charismatic personalities who prey on those simple fools who “believe every word”. They sometimes become slaves to people who only want to use them for their own benefit. Simple, silly women are often victims of this kind of abuse by domineering abusive men who know how to schmooze a girl with flattery but once they have them emotionally sucked in, they treat them with disrespect. These silly girls who lack wisdom end up jumping into one bad relationship after another and are foolish enough to tell themselves that “this time, it is true love and this man will treat me better than the last one!” The wise person is able to mark these people out and avoid them!
2. They are Uncalculating
Proverbs 22:3; Proverbs 27:12 A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
This verse is repeated in Proverbs because it is a warning against the folly of not having foresight! As we've already seen, the simple fool doesn’t have the character to stop and think, to weight out facts, and is willing to listen to whoever seems most attractive. Because of this character flaw, they are naturally miscalculating. They are people who make commitments without counting the cost. They jump in without any thought to the consequences that follow. Many of them fill the church especially when the call to salvation is an attractive free ticket to heaven without any call to committed discipleship and the possibility of hardship and persecution. These people easily “get saved” but fizzle out after a while when the thrill is gone. They usually get involved in moral problems because they are only after what’s easy and fun. The prudent on the other hand looks at the possible outcomes, calculates risk and in wisdom removes himself from dangerous situations and people before he can get hurt. He doesn’t make financial commitments in the passion of the moment and get locked in to something he can’t pay for. The simple are not committed to morality by conviction. This is one of the most unfortunate realities of simple fools. They get into sexual sin easily because they’re looking for what’s easy and fun: easy women are the perfect bait for these fools.
Proverbs 6:32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.
Because he lacks foresight, he doesn’t calculate the risk of destroying someone’s home, destroying his own emotional health, destroying his body through venereal diseases, and so forth:
Proverbs 9:12-18 If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it. 13 A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing. 14 For she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city, 15 To call passengers who go right on their ways: 16 Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, 17 Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. 18 But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.
3. They are Recoverable
The good news for the simple fool is that he doesn’t have to stay that way. He can be recovered and rescued, but it will have to be before he goes too far down the road of folly. The further he goes, the more difficult and complicated it becomes to rescue him/her. If someone who is wise will invest in them and show them the consequences of their naivety, they might wake up. Sometimes it will take what we call “tough love” to let them learn from their own mistakes.
Proverbs 21:11 When the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise: and when the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge.
Don’t be afraid to expose the nasty realities of life to your kids. Take them as close as you can to a prison and show them where lawlessness will take them. Let them see the destruction of foolishness so they will be afraid! When the simple sees pain inflicted on others who are doing the same foolishness as he is, he will sober up and realize he is in danger:
Proverbs 19:25 Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.
However, it is not just allowing the simple to see or experience pain for himself that will turn him away from folly. He also, and most importantly, needs to be instructed by the word of God when he has come to his senses and is teachable. Proverbs was written to instruct the simple and make them wise:
Proverbs 1:2-4 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; 3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; 4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. God’s word gives light to the simple who walks in darkness:
Psalm 119:130 The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. Repentance is required to turn from foolishness and to go in the way of understanding wisdom.
Proverbs 9:1-6 Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars: 2 She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table. 3 She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city, 4 Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, 5 Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. 6 Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.
They must recognize that they lack wisdom and be humble enough to ask God for it with a single mind. A "Single mind" is one who is committed to wisdom and isn’t sitting on the fence to see which one will work out best for him/her.
James 1:5-8 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
The simple must make the initiative toward wisdom and God will meet him half way. They must purify their hearts of their double minded, undecided, uncommitted ways. Their carefree, good times frivolity must be repented from and turned to mourning and weeping!
James 4:8-10 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. The simple one who knows that he lacks wisdom must seek out many wise counselors to help him.
Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.
By the way, this does not mean that you ask ten people for their opinion and then in your foolishness choose to listen to the ones that agree with your stupidity. This is what Rehoboam did. A multitude of counselors is a wise person for every area where you need wisdom like a President’s cabinet: a financial advisor, a parenting advisor, a Bible doctrine advisor, a real estate advisor, a health and fitness advisor, a marriage advisor, etc…
Don’t let one person be all these advisors. Nobody is that wise! There is only one thing we are encouraged to be simple about: Romans 16:19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.
We don’t need to experience evil to understand it and its consequences. This was Eve’s mistake. She wanted to know good and evil by experience instead of taking God at His word about it. All you need to know about sin is that it’s wages are death and that the soul that sinneth shall surely die! There is only one who can rescue you from sin and that is Jesus Christ who is the source of all the riches of wisdom and knowledge! Colossians 2:3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.