I was always a “better safe than sorry” kind of kid with regard to Biblical concepts. For instance, Jesus said, “Swear not at all” in Matthew 5:34, so I wouldn’t say the word “swear.” I’ve come to realize that isn’t the point of that passage; still, I can’t help cringing a bit when I hear someone say, “I swear to God.”
I say that to bring up another passage from the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:22 reads, ‘But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” I had the same inhibitions about the word “fool” as I did about the word “swear.” I can remember singing along with the radio and then humming through the word “fool.” As with “swear,” this reaction misses the point. The passage is merely condemning those who would have a dismissive attitude toward their fellow man. Stopping short of murdering them is good, but not nearly good enough.
Some people are fools; not only do they deserve to be told so, they need to be told so. If it can be done in a polite and patient way, so much the better; however, Bible foolishness tends strongly to be the sort that requires quick action rather than subtlety.
In Galatians 3:1, the “foolish Galatians” had refused to heed Paul’s warnings about false teachers. Swallowing the “new gospel” hook, line, and sinker, they had essentially abandoned the only true gospel (Galatians 1:6), and in so doing “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). The very Spirit working through them should have reminded them of the efficacy of Paul’s gospel; then, reminded, they should have been strong enough to rebut error. But they were foolish.
In Matthew 23:17, Jesus condemns the scribes and Pharisees for making arbitrary distinctions in application of the Law. What they likely would have called “attention to detail,” Jesus calls foolishness. If you are concerned with being true to your commitment to God and His matters, you will not use precise terminology as a loophole. Such an approach shows a flippant, and ultimately foolish, attitude toward faith.
Perhaps most obviously, Psalm 14:1 reads, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” And because of his willing blindness, he is emboldened to behave in whatever licentious us, self-serving way he pleases. For some, that is precisely the point; occasionally you will find an atheist who admits rejecting the concept of God because it facilitates a hedonistic lifestyle. Such ones get full marks for honesty; unfortunately for them, honesty is not the central issue. Rejecting God because of such considerations is the height of foolishness. If God is real, then judgment is real. If judgment is real, then surely any inconvenience or sacrifice we might be asked to endure is minor.
In short, if you don’t want to be called a fool by God after your death, as was the rich farmer in Luke 12:20, don’t live like a fool now.