The Ultimate in Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery. Merriam-Webster defines it simply as “foolish or silly behavior.” Some of its synonyms are buffoonery, monkey business, and nonsense. I like to define it as foolishness on steroids. Whereas the word most often refers to foolish or silly behavior, it can also apply to foolish thinking which leads to like-minded behavior.

Of all the tomfoolery in life, what would you say is the ultimate expression of it? Is it, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, when a person lets his outgo exceed his income such that his upkeep becomes his downfall? Or is it failure to save for one’s retirement, believing that since even blind squirrels find acorns, somehow some way his retirement needs will be taken care of? Is it taking the triple-dosed poisons of unforgiveness, grudges, and resentment while waiting for the person who’s the object of scorn to die? Is it numbing one’s emotional pain with drugs or alcohol as if those sedatives will never wear off, and thus never need to be reapplied?

Lots of things in life qualify as tomfoolery, but the Bible identifies the ultimate tomfoolery as this: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God’” (Psalm 15:1). Interestingly, that is exactly the opposite of what one who chooses not to believe in God would say. Their version would be, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is a God’” What might be lost in the debate over which position is right is the simple truth that it may just take more faith to believe there is no God than it does to believe that He exists.

Practically speaking, why would the Bible declare a person who does not believe in God to be acting the fool? Let me suggest a few reasons:

  1. The one who chooses not to believe in God observes the makeup and maintenance of our incredibly complex universe - a wonderfully put together and operating entity - and concludes it is all the result of happenstance – that there is no intelligent design behind it. Interestingly that is a conclusion he would never draw about other areas of life. For example, that same individual would never look at a 100 story sky scraper and conclude it is not the product of intelligent design and intentional effort. Yet, the unbeliever refuses to apply that same logic to our magnificent universe.
  2. The one who chooses not to believe in God has to conclude that there is nothing that matters in life but matter – meaning the material aspects of life being governed by natural law. But if there is no great Mind behind matter, there can be no ultimate purpose to our existence. And if there is no ultimate purpose to our existence, then as George Gaylor Simpson says, “Mankind is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.”1 And if that is the case, then as Dennis Prager says, “nature has only one commandment, not ten – eat or be eaten.”2
  3. The one who does not believe in God has no answer for one of life’s great questions: Why is the world broken? Gregory Koukl identifies that dilemma as follows: “We all know that something has gone terribly wrong with the world. We call it ‘the problem of evil.’ But that can only be so if there is a right way for things to be. And that could only be so if the world was designed for a Purpose that for some reason is not being achieved.”3 With no God responsible for the establishment of ultimate purpose, with no God responsible for the establishment of right and wrong, then the only conclusion one can draw is that the world at any given time is as it is supposed to be. Thus the nonbeliever in God forfeits his right to complain why things are the way they are. Furthermore, if the nonbeliever is not careful, a sense of futility, not joy, can result.4
  4. The one who does not believe in God, foolishly concludes therefore that there is no One to whom he/she will one day be accountable for his or her actions. If there is no God, then there’s nothing to sweat. But if there is a God, and one chooses not to believe in His existence, then there’s everything to sweat come time for death. It’s called Judgment Day.

In closing, let me warn that it is not enough just to believe in God’s existence. Genuine faith in God is when we believe so much in His purpose for our lives as revealed in Scripture, that we take on His nature and character.

Jerry Long

Jerry Long is a retired minister [38 years] living in metro Greenville, SC. He and his wife Lynne have two daughters and three grandchildren. He holds degrees from Clemson University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He may be reached at