There is a powerful progression in Proverbs 26 that I believe is worthy of note. The chapter begins with a vivid 10-fold description of the fool.
Verse 1, As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.
Verse 3, A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.
Verse 4, Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.
Verse 5, Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
Verse 6, He that sendeth a message by the hand of a fool cutteth off the feet, and drinketh damage.
Verse 7, The legs of the lame are not equal: so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
Verse 8, As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool.
Verse 9, As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
Verse 10, The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.
Verse 11, As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.
Reading that list, you wouldn’t think it could get much worse. But then you read verse 12…and it does.
Verse 12, Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.
Who could possibly be worse off than the person described in vv. 1-11? A man who is wise in his own conceit. The guy who thinks he’s got it all figured out. The guy who doesn’t THINK he’s smart – he KNOWS he’s smart. The Mr. Know-It-All.
As bad as the fool might be, God says this guy is one step down.
Proverbs 3:7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
Isaiah 5:21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
Why is this the case? Well, there’s hope for a fool. He can get some help. But if you’re one of those people that thinks you’re God’s gift to mankind, you’ve put yourself in a place where nobody can help you…because you don’t think you need it.
Now, I forget when it was when I “saw” verse 12 in my Bible for the first time. It was one of those verses that just jumped out and made you wonder how you had never seen it there before. And I’m not sure how many times I’ve read the chapter since, but it wasn’t until the last time through that I “saw” the next step in the downward progression.
Verse 16, The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.
God has some very unflattering things to say about the fool. But He doesn’t stop there. He’s just setting us up to tell us that even worse than the fool is the Mr. Smarty Pants. But He doesn’t stop there, either. It gets even worse. On the bottom end of this downward progression is the sluggard; the slacker; the loafer.
What’s worse than folly? What’s worse than conceit? Laziness.
Ouch! I don’t know about you, but I’d have a hard time honestly saying that I see myself in vv. 1-11 (by the grace of God). I don’t know about you, but I do my best to stay away from v. 12 (1 Corinthians 10:12). And I don’t know about you, but v. 16 hits me right between the eyes. I’m afraid there are times when I find myself in that category. And God puts it 2 steps down from the fool.
Proverbs 6:9-11 How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.
Joshua 18:3 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you?
The fool is bad enough. But it gets even worse, the know-it-all. Worse still, the sluggard. God help us keep ourselves from bearing any of those titles.