Reality TV shows and celebrity culture are prevalent in today’s society. Virtually every newspaper – even ‘reputable’ ones – have gossip columns and pages devoted to the antics of celebrities. Nowadays it seems you can become famous even for achieving very little. The paparazzi then follow you around and your every action can become front page news. It’s a question of style over substance and young people in particular slavishly follow the news, often aping these celebrities in how they look, dress and act.

Proverbs has quite a caustic view of this kind of society, calling this kind of behaviour foolish. “We no more give honours to fools than pray for snow in summer or rain during harvest” (Prov 26:1) . Sadly, today, it seems we fail to heed this approach, elevating people with foolish opinions and lifestyles for all kinds of reasons.

Proverbs advises us “Don’t respond to the stupidity of a fool; you’ll only look foolish yourself.” (Prov 26:4) . It tells us “a proverb quoted by fools is limp as a wet noodle.” (Prov 26:7) .. It tells us “putting a fool in a place of honour is like setting a mud brick on a marble column.” (Prov 26:9) . No matter the wealth, appearance, fashion sense or style of a celebrity, we need to look at the substance of their lives before we ever think they are worth elevating.

Proverbs is blunt about the trouble a wrong understanding of folly can lead us into: “hire a fool or a drunk and you shoot yourself in the foot.” (Prov 26:10). “As a dog eats its own vomit, so fools recycle silliness.” (Prov 26:11) . Quite why we continue to read about the drunken habits and sexual promiscuity of TV and film stars baffles me!

The characteristics of folly are listed in this chapter:
1) butting in on other people’s quarrels (Prov 26:17)
2) having a quarrelsome nature (Prov 26:21-22)
3) being two-faced (Prov 26:18, 24-26)
4) gossip (Prov 26:20)

One of the most striking images in the chapter is “smooth talk from an evil heart is like glaze on cracked pottery.” (Prov 26:23) . We can try to cover over the cracks, but in the end, foolishness is seen by its actions. Let’s not be fools!