Why did Jesus call people fools and yet condemn others for doing the same thing? MATTHEW 23:17

MATTHEW 23:17—Why did Jesus call people fools and yet condemn others for doing the same thing?

PROBLEM: Jesus said, “whoever says [to his brother], `You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matt. 5:22). Yet Himself said to the scribes and Pharisees, “Fools and blind!” (Matt. 23:17) The Apostle Paul, following suit, said, “O foolish Galatians” (Gal. 3:1; cf. 1 Cor. 15:36).

SOLUTION: There are good reasons why there is a strong difference between the two uses of the term “fool.” First, this is another example of the principle that the same word can be used with different meanings in different contexts (see Introduction). For instance, the word “dog” can be used of a canine animal or a detested person.

, in Matthew 5, it is used in the context of someone who is “angry” with his brother, indicating a hatred. Neither Jesus nor Paul harbored hatred toward those to whom they applied the term. Thus, their of the term “fool” does not violate Jesus’ prohibition against calling others a fool.

Third, technically speaking, Jesus commanded that a “brother” (Matt. 5:22) not be called a “fool,” not an unbeliever. In the scriptural of a fool is one who “has said in his heart, `There is ’ ” (Ps. 14:1). In view of this, one can see the seriousness of calling a brother a fool; it is tantamount to calling an unbeliever. Hence, when who “knew what was in man” (cf. John 2:25) called unbelievers “fools,” it was a most appropriate of what they really were.



[1]Geisler, L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : A popular handbook on Bible difficulties (357). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

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