Iron pyrite is a well known mineral that has been in use for centuries. In fact, it is believed to have been used during the Roman Empire as a sparking element to start fires. Pyrite even enjoyed brief popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries as a source of ignition in early firearms. But where it has gained most of its notoriety is in its nickname, “Fool’s Gold.” Why is it called “Fool’s Gold” and how has it continued to “bewilder” people for centuries?
The easy answer is that “Fool’s Gold” looks like real gold. Countless stories have been told from the 1500s to the 1800s about miners and explorers in the American West. Thousands of miners moved around the U.S. looking to strike it rich. As these miners and explorers searched the western stream beds for gold, only a few ever found real gold and made money. Many others found something that glittered that resembled gold but was in fact something different.
From the outside, its very easy to see where gold and pyrite could get confused. But if you take the time to really examine the two, you will find major differences. Pyrite is a mineral that is very hard and cannot be scratched. Gold is softer and can be cut. Pyrite tarnishes and turns brown when exposed to other elements. Gold, however, is not impacted by other elements. Pyrite is of no great value because it is so common, whereas gold is hard to find and thus of much greater value.
So what does this little mineral teach us about foolishness?
This week in Bible Study we looked at the personality of the fool. The word fool or foolish is thrown about in our Western vernacular as someone who is dumb, senseless or careless. But biblically there is much more depth to it. The word fool or foolish shows up in the Bible roughly 180 times, 70 times in Proverbs and mentioned by Jesus on 10-12 occasions in the Gospels. In the Proverbs, Solomon suggests that foolishness is a whole lot more than making a series of poor decisions. In so many words, he tells us that we are fools when we buy or invest in something that is not real or as Tim Keller says “buying into a false reality”.
It’s easy for all of us to buy into the allure of something that’s nice on the outside. But buying into false ideas about life are more than just random bad decisions………much like fool’s gold, these investments can alter the whole trajectory of your journey. In Proverbs, Solomon shares that there are 3 types of fools: the simple, the scoffer and the stubborn. Each of these fools has a variety of blind spots predicated on two ideas……….
What will people think of me?
I am the captain of my life.
Only Christ can free us from the trap of this “fool’s gold”. In dealing with two men on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, the resurrected Christ calls these men foolish for their ideas and he meets their foolishness with the only cure…… “he explained to them what was said in the Scriptures concerning Himself.”
What Fool’s Gold has your attention lately?