The Thought of Foolishness is Sin
1. This proverb is connected to verse eight. It is the second part of the 23rd wise saying in this section of Proverbs.
2. Verse eight described a “mischievous person” as one who devises or plans to do evil.
a. He is constantly plotting to cause injury to others… he devises ways to cause distress to others, to be injurious either physically or emotionally.
b. Thus, the rendering of the phrase translated “mischievous person” is literally, “lord of mischief” or “master of schemes.”
c. This is what he shall be called because he EARNED this reputation by the evil, injurious things he plans and carries out against others.
3. Now Solomon takes this same thought a little further.
a. This is a synthetic parallelism. In this kind of parallelism, the second line or verse adds to the previous thought.
b. To interpret verse nine, it must be kept in mind that it is connected to verse 8 (which is not always the case in the book of Proverbs).
c. In verse nine, Solomon adds some meat to the skeleton. He adds more details to his description of the “lord of mischief.”
1. Foolishness here as elsewhere in the book of Proverbs speaks of immoral folly.
2. Thought defined:
a. Strong’s: Plan; purpose; device; usually an evil plan; mischievous purpose.
b. Dictionary of Bible Languages: What is thought and intended by a thinking person; a general wickedness with a focus on the thought processes that occur in plotting wickedness.
c. Zodhiates: The plans and purposes of the mind which give rise to one’s actions.
d. This term speaks of in inner thought life of a person.
• It includes his thoughts AND his intentions – what he would LIKE to do.
• These are the thoughts that give rise to evil actions – but the thoughts PRECEDE the actions.
3. Thus, this term adds a new point to what was said in verse eight.
a. Verse 8 spoke of the man who was “devising evil.”
• This man was planning and plotting evil with the intentions of carrying out those plans.
• We noted last time that this term was used in Gen. 50:20 when Joseph’s brothers plotted evil against him. They devised to DO evil and actually carried out their plan.
b. Verse 9 is very similar in meaning, but note that it does NOT include the words “to do.”
• The distinction is not so much grammatical as it is conceptual.
• In verse 8, the “lord of mischief” is planning an evil scheme so that he might carry it out.
• In verse 9, there is no mention of carrying it out. It is the thought stage ONLY.
• Solomon’s point seems to be that even the thought stage is SIN.
• Take radical Islam for example. From among that ideology, some become suicide bombers.
» But there are many others who may cheer them and agree with them, but who do not actually blow up themselves and others.
» Perhaps some would like to, but do not carry out their plans for other reasons: family, fear, cowardice, would do so if their family could be left enough money but cannot find a sponsor.
» This proverb states that even THINKING such thoughts is sin regardless of whether they are carried out or not.
• Consider another example of the man who really wants to steal his co-workers new iPhone.
» He has been watching where he leaves it at lunch every day.
» He has thought through an elaborate scheme on exactly how to do it.
» However, he doesn’t do it—because he is afraid if he gets caught, he loses his job… or loses his reputation…
» Solomon’s point is that even the planning stage is sinful.
» To God, sin is sin.
» We know of no mortal or venial sins as Christians. All sin separates us from fellowship with a holy God.
» Thus, to the Lord, the thought stage is sin just like the actual carrying out of the evil thoughts.
4. It is human nature to assume that sin must involve action.
a. Jesus dealt with this misconception in the gospels.
b. Matt. 5:27-28 – The Scribes and Pharisees assumed that as long as they didn’t actually commit the sin of adultery, that they had fulfilled the Law.
• Jesus pointed out that even the thought stage… the internal lustful thoughts were equal to the sin of adultery.
• It is possible to THINK evil, lustful thoughts, and to WISH that you could carry them out… but for various reasons, never carry it out.
• Perhaps the opportunity never arose. Perhaps you are afraid of getting caught… of being discovered.
• But just because the thoughts were never carried out, that does not mean that no sin occurred.
• The THOUGHT of foolishness is sin.
• And keep in mind that foolishness is not childishness or silliness. It is immoral folly.
• Sin is sin in God’s mind… when in the thought stage or the action stage.
• Jesus’ point here is that it is the SAME sin.
» The thought is the embryo of the action.
» Unabated anger leads to murder.
» Unabated covetousness leads to stealing.
c. There is a connection between the thought stage and the action stage.
• Prov. 23:7 – Solomon wrote earlier: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
» This is a far more accurate description of what a man is really like—what he THINKS.
» Some men are masters at disguising what they really think. (hypocrites)
» God knows what’s really going on on the inside: in their mind and heart.
» The man who on the inside is plotting and planning evil schemes IS evil… whether he carries out the schemes or not.
» The THOUGHT of foolishness is sin.
• BOTH the evil thoughts and the evil actions are sinful in God’s mind.
d. In fact most sins we commit are premeditated—at least for a little while.
• We usually think before we act.
• Even in those circumstances where the action is impulsive and spur of the moment, thoughts DO occur in the mind before we strike.
• It may be momentary, but our hands and mouths need to get instruction from the brain before they act.
• Our proverb seems to be speaking of sins of premeditation more than impulse, but either way, the THOUGHT of immoral folly is SIN.
5. Plotting evil is sinful – even in the thought stage. This is applicable to many settings.
a. In the workplace: Businessmen often sit around thinking up ways to increase business. That’s what they do.
• But sometimes the conversation can go sour.
• Thoughts of cheating, misrepresenting, scamming, and other shady practices may become the topic of conversation.
• The believer is to have no part in that. Even if he would never DO such a thing, even the thought stage is sin.
• It’s time to stand up and say in love, “This is wrong.”
b. In the schoolyard: Kids may stand around in a gang and start plotting some mischievous scheme. If you are in that circle and listening to their evil plan, even if you don’t plan on joining in on the actual commission of the trouble, the thought stage is sin!
• It’s time to pick some new friends—or rebuke these plotters.
• Psalm 1:1 – “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”
• You might think that the thought stage was just talk… and nothing would come of it. You might dismiss it as just foolishness or jest.
• But such foolish talk is much worse than you might have assumed.
• Solomon says that the THOUGHT of foolishness is sin.
c. It is easy to get caught up in the thought stage… and before you know it, it develops into the action stage.
d. Maybe you never planned on getting involved in the action, but it is easy to get swept away before you know it.
e. Phil.4:8 – The Lord has commanded us what kind of things we are to THINK on—and this list does not include “devising to do evil.”
1. In this part of the proverb, the lord of mischief who devises evil plans is also a scorner.
a. The two concepts are linked together in this proverb: troublemakers are also scorners.
2. Scorner: To mock; deride; to scoff; to speak in derision; to boast arrogantly against; to show no respect for (especially for those in positions of authority).
a. The scorner makes the internal thoughts external verbally.
b. And his verbiage is harsh and odious.
c. He outwardly mocks others.
d. Job 16:20 – Job lamented: “My friends scorn me.” They mocked him and ridiculed him.
e. Ps. 119:51 – “The proud have had me greatly in derision.” The psalmist also experienced the pain of being ridiculed and scorned.
f. Nobody appreciates a scorner. He is an abomination to men.
3. The scorner is an abomination to men.
a. Prov. 29:27 – He is especially an abomination to just men who walk uprightly.
b. Generally speaking, men do not LIKE troublemakers. Men do not appreciate those who plot evil. (Other troublemakers excluded.)
c. But the divide is even deeper between the troublemakers and those who do things right… who walk uprightly… and expect that others do the same.
d. Prov. 14:17 – A man of wicked devices is hated. The schemer might think it’s great fun, but nobody else does. He is hated.
• We looked at this verse last time.
• Nobody likes a man of wicked devices.
• Nobody likes a scorner.
• He is an abomination to men.