Some years ago, Grace and I were trying to help a struggling single mother. As a little girl, she was raised by a naïve mother who trusted people too quickly, which put her daughter in situations to be tragically abused by older men. As this woman became a teenager, she continued the pattern of her mother, naively dating some dangerous guys who caused her further harm.
Thankfully, in her twenties she met Jesus. She spent some years focusing on her relationship with Jesus rather than dating guys, which led to a great deal of emotional and spiritual healing. Eventually, she met a great man who loved Jesus and loved her. He was a safe, godly, kind man whom she felt very safe with and loved by. Eventually, God gave them the blessing of a baby girl.
Now a mother, the woman became overly protective of her child. She would not allow anyone to even hold her baby girl. She would not even allow her godly husband to be alone with his own daughter. Thankfully, she eventually found a middle ground between thinking everyone was either all evil (like she had experienced) or all good (like her mother had thought). She learned to be discerning and began to examine the three biblical categories of people by reading Proverbs: wise, foolish, and evil.
Wise people are not necessarily the most intelligent or educated, but they are humble, godly, teachable, open, and responsible. Proverbs 9:8–9 says, “Correct the wise, and they will love you. Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.”
Wise people meet reality’s and life’s demands by changing their actions and attitudes as needed in order to align with what is true and good. They welcome correction, invite others to teach them, and build growing relationships by being honest. Wise people also have empathy for others and consider more than just their own desires and feelings in a situation.
A wise person lives by the power of the Holy Spirit. Parents should strive to be wise, surround the child with wise people, and encourage their child to be wise.
Foolish people are not necessarily less intelligent or less educated. However, they are unteachable, are irresponsible, and blame others when things go wrong. Foolish people tend not to see the pain they are causing others, and their folly is usually inadvertent through bad decisions and irresponsibility.
Sadly, if we are honest, everyone is foolish in certain areas and seasons of life. None of us is immune from folly. People who are primarily foolish have an ongoing pattern of folly that dominates their life.
The more you address problem areas with a fool, the more conflict and disagreement occurs as the relationship deteriorates. Proverbs 9:7–8 says, “Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you.”
The way to respond to a foolish people is with consequences and boundaries. This limits their ability to harm themselves and others. Foolish peoplerson push their responsibilities and the consequences of their folly to responsible people, the best thing to do is push the responsibility and consequence for their folly back on them. Hopefully this motivates them to make changes.
A foolish person lives by the power of the flesh. As a parent, seek to not be foolish, keep foolish people from being close with your children, and help your child not to be foolish.
Evil people do not cause harm unintentionally as the fool does. Instead, the evil person intentionally plots harm, schemes to bring pain and destruction, and feels vindicated in doing so because of hurt, self-righteousness, or simply corrupt nature. They find satisfaction in causing others pain, loss, shame, humiliation, and fear.
The way to respond to an evil person is exactly the opposite of the way to respond to a wise person. We should draw near to a wise person and run from an evil person. Whereas a wise person can be influenced toward godliness, a fool can perhaps be brought toward wisdom after he or she has struggled for a while. The evil person has to be considered hopeless apart from a dramatic intervention from God and the help of a professional (e.g., lawyer, cop, therapist).
Proverbs 2:12–15 says, “Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted. These men turn from the right way to walk down dark paths. They take pleasure in doing wrong, and they enjoy the twisted ways of evil. Their actions are crooked, and their ways are wrong.”
Evil people live by the power of the demonic forces at work in the world to harass and harm. Any parent who has evil in his or her life needs to repent to God and get help immediately. Parents must also protect themselves and their child from evil people and be vigilant in ensuring that they are not raising an evil child.
Are you wise, foolish, or evil? Is your child wise, foolish, or evil? Are there any foolish or evil people in your child’s life (e.g., your friends, your child’s friends, extended family members)?
Note: The categories for this devotional were adopted from chapter 7 in the book Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud. It’s a great book and particularly helpful for those needing to decide if they remain in a troubled relationship or move on.