There are some human tendencies that create pitfalls on the path to our future. Here are five of the most common and dangerous ones.
I cringe when I hear the words stupid, dumb or foolish. No one wants to hear those words applied to his or her actions or choices. But sometimes, looking back, we see that those words fit. It has nothing to do with intelligence—some of the smartest people do some of the stupidest things.
We all have blind spots. We can’t always see when we are making a colossal mistake.
But God has given us a book of wisdom to help us look past the blind spots to the reality beyond. The warnings of the Bible can help us avoid the traps that so easily ensnare us.
Consider the following five foolish things God wants to help us avoid. With each one we also provide the alternative wise choice and some resources for further learning. As we will see, studying the wisdom of the Bible is the real antidote to foolishness and failure.
1. Following the wrong things
It’s easy to follow the crowd, even if the crowd is confused or leading us into evil. Wise King Solomon warned, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Proverbs 1:10). How many young people have been lured with money and precious possessions (verse 13), just to end up in prison—or worse?
It’s even more natural to follow our heart. But the Bible warns, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
Worthwhile goals and good actions seem to always be upstream, so just going with the flow won’t get us there.
So, what should we do?
Follow God: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
2. Blowing up!
How many bad decisions have been made in the heat of anger? As Solomon explained, “Any fool can start a quarrel” and “whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 20:3; 25:28). Having a chip on your shoulder can leave you vulnerable—especially to our worst enemy, the devil.
Responding to slights by others can escalate. Even if the first provocation was unintentional, the belligerence can quickly boil over as each mad young man returns fire. (Of course, it’s not just mad men; women can fail at anger management too.)
What does anger do? “When anger is too intense, out of control, misdirected, and overly aggressive, it can lead to poor decision making and problem solving, create problems with relationships and at work, and can even affect your health” (PBS.org from Anger Research Consortium and American Psychological Association sources).
What should we do instead?
Don’t allow anger to cause you to sin. “‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27). God Himself gets angry (Numbers 25:3), but His anger is always righteous and always under control. We must not allow our anger to explode or to fester, or we will leave an opening for Satan to attack us and lead us into sin.
3. Starting a bad habit
Generally we don’t think we are starting a habit. But giving in once to something that can harm us can make it easier to repeat and repeat and (you get the idea). This is especially true of addictive substances like tobacco and drugs. Other habits can have varying levels of powerful psychological addiction, like gambling, pornography, eating disorders and video game addiction.
Even laziness can become a bad habit. Solomon wrote, “How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep—so shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:9-11).
The negative results of our habits aren’t always immediately discerned, so we tend to ignore the consequences (Ecclesiastes 8:11). But bad habits of every kind tend to get stronger and harder to break with time, so it is best to avoid them or nip them in the bud as early as possible.
So what should we do instead?
Develop a good habit! Good habits include prayer and Bible study, exercise, a healthy diet, making more good friends and using time productively.
Helpful reading: “Freedom From Addictions” series, including “Alcoholism,” “Pornography,” “Smoking,” “Gambling,” “Gaming” and “The First Month of Recovery: What to Expect”; How to Pray; “How to Study the Bible”; and “What Do You Do With All Your Time?”
4. Believing lies
From the very beginning, lies have come in attractive packages. The serpent convinced Eve that the delicious-looking (but forbidden) fruit would make her “like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Humanity has accepted that lie ever since—the lie that we can decide for ourselves what is right and wrong, that we don’t need God to define it for us.
Along with that lie, Satan told Eve that she wouldn’t surely die. Humanity has since swallowed several other similar lies, including the one that humans have an immortal soul and that God was withholding good things from mankind. Humans began believing the liar and mistrusting the truth-teller. That’s a dangerous combination.
If we believe that our mind and feelings are the ultimate source of morality, we will believe other lies, such as: It feels so right, it can’t be wrong.
However, God created us and the laws of the universe, and He really does know what will help us and what will hurt us. He is the source of all truth.
But what about those who say there is no God or who reject the Creator and His laws?
God challenges us to examine the facts: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. … [They] exchanged the truth of God for the lie” (Romans 1:20, 25, emphasis added throughout). (Study this for yourself in our Life, Hope & Truth article “Intelligent Design: Can Science Answer the Question, Does God Exist?” and the related articles.)
And God strongly warns against falling for a widespread religious deception that rejects His laws in the last days.
“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).
So what should we do?
Seek the truth. Jesus defined truth in His prayer to the Father: “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). The entire Bible was inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16), and God is pleased by those who, like the Bereans, “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
5. Committing to something we shouldn’t
Solomon advised against hasty decisions and thoughtless promises.
“Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, one of those who is surety for debts; if you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take away your bed from under you?” (Proverbs 22:26-27).
Too many people saddle themselves with unmanageable debt early in life. Others jump into other commitments without weighing the long-term consequences, whether it be marriage, military service or some other endeavor that can be difficult to extract oneself out of and have long-lasting effects.
So what does God want us to do?
Take commitment seriously, especially the commitment of marriage and the commitment to God through baptism. God is not against commitment! He just wants us to carefully count the cost and be sure we will follow through on the good commitments we wisely choose to make (Luke 14:28-30, Luke 14:31-33).
Helpful reading: “Decision Making: Seven Steps for Making Good, Christian Choices,” “What Is Marriage?” “What Is Baptism?” and Change Your Life!
Perhaps in your study of the wisdom of the Bible you will find many more foolish choices to avoid, and many more wise actions to take. But these five provide a start. Applying these points will help us get on God’s road that leads in the best possible direction: “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).