3 A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, But a fool’s wrath is heavier than both of them.
Here we see that the wrath of a fool is weighty. An angry fool is hard to bear.
The other way to translate this verse starts the same, but ends with… but the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them. (ESV, NASB, etc.) The Hebrew is ambiguous, but the second translation is probably a little more helpful. It speaks of the provocation of a fool, this is far more broad than simply his anger, rather it points to the unbearable nature of fools, their annoying tendencies, and their persistence in folly.
It brings to mind the Dufflepuds in C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Their master’s punishment was to bear with their simple-mindedness, things like their desire to wash the dishes before dinner in order to save time, or their ridiculous habit of agreeing with everything their chief said, when all that he said was patently obvious… “water, that’s powerful wet stuff, that is.” “Right you are, chief!” “Couldn’t have put it better myself!” Or their inordinate fear of, and unjustifiable vilifying of their master.
In the book, Coriakin, their master, bears with them with remarkable patience, wisdom, and love, but the point is that it requires exactly that, it is a burden.
You see, life is hard enough in general. There are stones that need moved and sand that needs transported, and this is hard work, but foolishness exacerbates life’s woes. The fool provokes. This happens in many ways… fools whine, complain, blame, and accuse. They are lazy, they waste time, waste energy, and they tax the patience and resources of those around them. This is a simple fact, but what is the moral duty that we can glean from this fact?
One thing is that this proverb can be an encouragement toward diligence in training our children. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15) Much strife and much burden can be avoided by diligence early on. Foolishness can be driven from them, but our children’s hearts need shepherding, and like Coriakin does with the Dufflepuds, we must bear with our kids with patience, wisdom, and love, teaching them to forsake folly, and to embrace wisdom.
Another duty is that once we confess the truth of this proverb, we should do some introspection. Where do I fit into this picture? Fools are frequently oblivious to the provocation they bring. Men are regularly blind to their own offences, they can’t see their own foibles. Humility is the first step, and we must humbly look into our own lives. Ask yourself… Am I the fool? Am I the weak link? The burden on those around me? Do I provoke them?
Better yet, ask for insight on this from those who are close to you, or who have authority over you, and be willing to hear them out. Are there particular areas where you need to grow and learn and change?
Perhaps we can spin it more positively… Ask yourself… am I part of the answer? Am I carrying my load? Am I really faithful in my Christian duty of communicating God’s grace and shedding the light of the gospel? If not, we must confess our sin and turn from it.