Last weekend I had the privilege of speaking at a Mother Daughter Banquet in Scottsdale, AZ, at Immanuel Bible Church. Besides being one of the neatest luncheons I've ever even been to, the day was a blast for me because I got to speak on one of my favorite passages of Scripture - the story of Abigail and her two "fools."
Actually Abigail, for whom my daughter is named, only had one fool. The other man in the story, the soon-to-be-King David, was simply acting like a fool. He was behaving foolishly. And Abigail rescued him from his insanity by returning him to reasonable, godly thinking.
I was in love with the old-fashioned name Abigail even before I read her story in 1 Samuel 25. But when, at about 5 months into my pregnancy, I decided I might better find out a little more about this exceedingly beautiful and wise woman I was delighted with what I discovered. You see, not only does God specifically point out that Abigail was indeed beautiful and full of understanding, but He shares a crucial snippet of her life that illustrates this woman's character. I was most impressed.
What I love about the story of Abigail is that it shows us a normal housewife exercising wisdom and quick thinking in a crucial moment. Because of this woman's words, actions, and demeanor she is able to rise above her own gloomy situation to keep a future king from making a costly mistake. She has a fool for a husband, but she steps up to the plate to keep another man from behaving foolishly.
It occurs to me that most of us want to be people of influence. After all, we are influential whether we want to be or intend to be or not. But I think most of us would like to influence well. Unfortunately, many of us excuse ourselves from influencing well because we have extenuating circumstances.
We reason with ourselves,
- "If only my family would cooperate, I could be a better person."
- "If only my boss would be more reasonable, more accommodating, more appreciative, I could be a better employee and lead others to greatness too."
- "If only my sister would get her act together and quit being so needy, I could be freed up to do really great things."
- "If only my grown child would quit returning to the nest, I could get on with life and really make an impact in my world."
- "If only my parents hadn't been so warped and I hadn't come from such a dysfunctional family, I could really 'be somebody.'"
What are we doing? We're blaming our ineffectiveness on our fools.
Our fools? What in the world?
Don't be alarmed by the term fool. While Jesus did indeed warn us about casually and hastily calling other people fools, He didn't instruct us to never use the word. In fact, the book of Proverbs describes the biblical qualifications of a fool in some detail. Why? So we'll know one when we see one...or when we be one. But for today, as we think about Abigail's predicament in 1 Samuel 25, we'll concentrate on how to spot the fool that's not in the mirror, but perhaps is in our office, our home, our circle of friends, our family.
Jan Silvious has written a splendid book on this very topic called Fool-Proofing Your Life: How to Deal Effectively with the Impossible People in Your Life. If you have a fool in your life, as Abigail did, I suggest you get it and read it immediately. It's sound, biblical counsel. You can read it without guilt and I think you'll gain tremendous perspective on how to deal honorably and wisely with your fool.
But, alas, I get ahead of myself. How do you know if you have a fool in your life?
Abigail's fool was named Nabal, which quite appropriately means "fool." And he lived up to his name. So today I thought we'd assess Nabal's character in an effort to spot the fools in our own lives.
So that brings us to the point I really want to make today.
- Nabal was right in his own eyes. Proverbs 12:15 says, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel." If you check out the narrative in 1 Samuel 25 you'll find that no one even tried to persuade Nabal to act differently. They knew he wouldn't listen. He was beyond reason. Do you know someone who never heeds the advice of others and even gets angry when it's offered?
- Nabal spoke his mind with no regard for the consequences. His theory was, "I'm the kind of person who always speaks my mind." And he thought that was a good thing. He didn't care if he hurt someone's feelings, caused an argument, offended someone's honor, slandered someone's character, or perpetuated a lie. He was going to speak his mind, by golly! Proverbs 18:2 says, "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in speaking his own mind." Do you know someone who speaks every thought that comes into their mind with no filter for appropriateness or godliness?
- Nabal reached the boiling point easily. He got angry over the littlest thing. And his anger caused destruction and weariness for his household. Everyone knew he was someone you couldn't reason with. He had a reputation for losing his temper. Do you know someone with a short fuse?
- Nabal often created strife and drama. His bad behavior was chronic. While David, the other man in this story, was behaving badly, too, we know that his bad behavior was "out of character." While he was ready to take Nabal and his household "out" over this one offense, David refused to seek vengeance on Saul in both the chapter before this one and the chapter following it. David was no fool; he was a man after God's own heart. He was just behaving foolishly in this one scenario (and a few others, of course). But Nabal was known for his foolish behavior. His own servant called him a "scoundrel that no one could reason with." Do you have someone in your life who is constantly stirring the pot, daily causing you to walk on ice, forever keeping you on edge?
- Nabal enjoyed his own foolishness. He didn't see anything wrong with his bad behavior. Nabal knew he had said some things and done something that would undoubtedly incite anger from David and his men, but he didn't care. He went right on with his celebration and even drank himself into oblivion. He had no regrets. Proverbs 10:23 says, "A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom." Do you know someone who seems to get a kick out of causing a little chaos? In fact, do you know someone who seems to thrive on drama?
- Nabal was wearisome to those around him. And this is why I think God goes to the trouble of pointing out that Abigail was beautiful. You see, generally a fool wears down those around him or her so much that they even begin to look exhausted, fragile, and defeated. A fool can plumb wear you out! But Abigail had obviously learned to "fool-proof" her life. She didn't let this wearisome fool drag her down. She stayed positive, lovely, wise, gentle, energetic, and resourceful despite the wearing tendencies of her fool. She stayed godly even though she had to contend with a fool. Do you have a fool who is eating your lunch? Do you know someone who drains you every time you're around them, every time you have to discuss things with them?
At some time or another you and I, all of us, are going to have to contend with a fool. I've known my share and you have too. We may hesitate to label them as such, and indeed we should. We can't be hasty to call anyone a fool. And, hear me on this, I don't think we should ever call someone a fool to their face or even behind their back. But there are times, and you'll know it when you're in it, when we do need to confer with God and His Holy Word to see if someone who's giving us an exceptionally hard time might be a fool.
Why? So we can treat them like one. And that doesn't mean we'll treat them badly. It simply means we'll know that we can't relate to them like a person of wisdom or understanding. We'll need to:
I hope you know I haven't written this post out of judgment or condemnation. I've written it to give you hope and encouragement if you are dealing with a fool. I've had to deal with a couple of fools recently - not someone in my family or church (I just feel the need to clarify that). But they have been people that I had to deal with on somewhat of a regular basis. And when I tried to treat them the same way I would those who are not classified as fools - turning the other cheek, offering my cloak also, going the extra mile, etc. - those methods left me drained, defeated, and baffled. But when I recognized, from God's Word, that they are quite possibly fools and began responding to them as such, my dignity, my sanity was restored. And, quite honestly, I even found myself giving them more grace, more understanding, more patience than before.
- detach ourselves - take a step back, detangle emotionally
- seek wisdom - rather than fixating on our fool, acknowledge God
- refuse to let our fool define us - stay true to who we are in Christ instead of being shaped by foolish behavior
- resist the temptation to play the victim or martyr - act like an adult and don't become the child
- overcome evil with good - see Romans 12:21
- speak truth at the right time - with strength and dignity
- leave our fools to God - we can't fix them, change them, or please them
You can truly love a fool - the way the Bible commands us to love one another - when you finally realize that they indeed are a fool.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I realize it's a little controversial, but then again I feel like everything I've written in this post is appropriately backed up with scripture. Still, I'm open to your thoughts :)