More fools – the troublemaker, the sluggard, and the complacent

posted in: Bible, Tony Thompson 0

In my previous blog I introduced the concept from “The Way of Wisdom: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs ” by Timothy Keller, that if you want to grow in wisdom you have to stop being a fool! I introduced three types of “fool” Keller describes from Proverbs. Here are three more fools.


Another kind of fool is the troublemaker. The mark of this person is constant conflict (6:14). This is the opposite of the peacemaker (Matthew 5:9), the bridge builder whose careful, gracious answers (15:1) disarm and defuse tensions. The troublemaker instead stirs them up. This is not the person who disturbs the false peace with an insistence on honesty. Rather, this is someone who always feels the need to protest and complain rather than overlooking a slight or wrong (19:11). When troublemakers do contend, they do not present the other side fairly. Their corrupt mouths produce deceptive omissions, half-truths, and innuendo. Their body language (winking, signalling) creates a hostile situation rather than one that leads to resolution.

Troublemakers tell themselves and others that they just like to “speak truth to power.” But disaster will overtake the troublemakers (6:15). As time goes on, it becomes clearer that the troublemakers themselves are a reason that conflict always follows in their wake. They can be permanently discredited by events that expose them for what they are. But the ultimate reason for their downfall is that “the Lord hates … a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (6:16,19).

If you have been involved in a series of conflicts, is it because you have the traits of a troublemaker? Do you know any troublemakers you should confront?


Another kind of fool in Proverbs is the sluggard. The wise are self-starters, needing only internal motivation, not threats, to do their work (6:7). They also are not impulsive, instead practicing delayed gratification (verse 8). In contrast, the sluggard makes constant excuses for apparently small lapses (a little … a little … a little) but then is surprised when he is assaulted by poverty (verses 10–11). “He … deceives himself by the smallness of his surrenders. So, by inches and minutes, his opportunity slips away.”

In Hillbilly Elegy the author tells of Bob, who worked with him at a tile warehouse with his girlfriend. Bob missed work once a week, was chronically late, and took many breaks each day, lasting over half an hour each. His girlfriend missed work every third day and never gave advance notice. When they were fired, after many warnings, Bob was furious. The author concludes, convincingly, that too many today are “immune … to hard work,” and that what used to be thought of as good, reasonable jobs are now seen as demanding unreasonable standards. The result is social decay, as Proverbs warned. Contrast this with Jesus, who said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17).

Is there any area of your life that is “slipping away” because you are not getting to work on it?


As we have seen, the mark of the fool is to be wise in his own eyes. This leads to the deadly spiritual condition of smug complacency. There is nothing more foolish than to think you have life under control when it is not controllable. The classic example is Jesus’ parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:19–20). No matter what type of designer life you think you have put together for yourself, bereavement, illness, betrayal, and financial disaster happen to everyone. No amount of wealth, success, power, or planning can make you impervious to them.

Fools live in a dream of metaphysical self-sufficiency. They think they have everything sorted, and the complacency leads to disaster. But the opposite of complacency—anxiety—is no solution. We can lose our overconfidence and still be at ease, without fear if we remember that we have the omnipotent, sovereign Lord of the universe as our father. Christians also remind their hearts that if God did not spare us his own Son, how will he not give us whatever we need (Romans 8:32)?

If things are going pretty well for you, are you getting complacent? If things are not going well, are you getting anxious? How can you avoid both?


Written by Tony Thompson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.