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Q: In Matthew 5:22 we are told that whosoever shall say, “Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire,” and yet in Proverbs we read about the fool and in Psalm 14:1 it tells us a fool says in his heart there is no God. To me it is confusing. Is there some type of explanation as to what Jesus meant?

A: There is an explanation behind what Jesus is saying about this subject. We are all born with foolishness in our heart due to the selfish, carnal ways of the old man. We start out being fools in one way or the other. To be foolish is opposite of wisdom and wisdom comes from experiences. There are those who lack discretion and wisdom due to immaturity, others choose foolish ways due to rebellion, and there are those who insist on their way which will make them a fool in the end (Romans 5:2-5; James 1:2-6, 12; 3:13-18).

In the case of Matthew 5:22 this has nothing to do with one’s state of foolishness, one’s preference for foolish ways, or one’s insistence on their foolishness due to their conceits and arrogance but on the attitude of those who are referring to someone else as being a fool. It is a judgment call that is not based on righteousness (John 7:24). The attitude Jesus is dealing with is a judgmental attitude that deems anyone who dares disagree with personal conclusions as being a “fool.” Keep in mind the way we judge others is how we will be judged in the end (Matthew 7:1-2; Luke 6:37-38).

When you look up the word “fool” in this text according to the Strong’s Concordance, this word finds its base in wisely keeping one mouth’s shut, a point of discretion, and refraining from demeaning someone based on their understanding or conclusions about a matter; and calling or referring to them as being dull, stupid, a blockhead, or implying their opinions are absurd and not worth considering. Sadly, we are seeing this attitude especially when it comes to denominational differences and politics.

A wise person will agree to disagree with someone and not write them off as being a fool, deeming them as being beneath them or substandard and therefore can disregard anything they say or stand for as useless, stupid, and insignificant. To do so is a type of abuse that demeans a person’s dignity, shows contempt rather than love towards them, and will not be apt to come to a place of reason in order to contend for the truth in meekness, edify those who are struggling, entering in with them that are seeking, and gently pointing the person to the right source (2 Timothy 2:25).

It is important to keep in mind not everyone is 100% wrong all the time nor are we 100% right all the time, and we must learn to listen so we can discern if the Lord is using an unlikely individual to speak the truth to us. Keep in mind, one of the criteria of one being foolish is that a person has an unteachable, obstinate spirit that is very judgmental; therefore, limiting their understanding.

Jesus is clearly advocating that such a judgment upon someone because of their conclusions puts the person in danger of hell fire because they are not only being a fool in their judgment, but foolish in maintaining it as being so because they seem to serve as the final word in the matter.