Happy April Fool’s Day! As we flip the calendar to the first of April, we do what people have done for centuries, celebrate with a day full of pranks, jokes, and hoaxes.
But why do we do this?
The origin of April Fool’s Day is a bit of a mystery. Some historians trace it back to 1582 when France switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar (as prescribed by the Council of Trent in 1563). The changing of the calendar meant there was a new date to celebrate the new year. Formerly it was celebrated on April 1, but now under the Gregorian calendar, it would be observed on January 1. The people who failed to get on the same page and celebrated the new year later became the punchline of jokes and the recipient of pranks. They were the “April Fools.”
The origin of the day isn’t as clear as the meaning of the word and some implications for us as Christians.
Our English word fool comes from the Latin follis meaning foolish. It’s connected to the word for bellows (think organ) or a leather bag filled with air (windbag). By the time of the early 1800s, windbag already had the metaphorical meaning of a person who talks too much. When we are thinking about a fool, we are thinking about someone ignorant. They are not respected and the subject of ridicule and, in some cases, pity. Certainly not respect or admiration.
This background reminds us of how striking the truth of the gospel is. Both in the first century and today, foolishness is not a sound marketing campaign. Nevertheless, the gospel is considered by many to be just that, foolishness.
Paul writes, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)
People listened to a depiction of a Savior who hung on a cross crucified, and they did not conclude it was wisdom but folly. The thought of a King who died is not an occasion for honor but shame. The story of a God who humbled himself in death is not a story of strength but weakness. The gospel does not compute in the minds of people. It doesn’t make sense. It was foolish.
But that’s just it, isn’t it? Worldly wisdom never leads to God (1 Cor. 1:21); it only leads to the mirror. We reflect ourselves and who we want to be. We don’t find God in that portrait.
Becoming a Christian is becoming, in the eyes of many, a fool. It’s embracing a morality, identity, and value system that’s ignorant and out-of-step
It’s this message, this “foolishness” that God uses to save people that are looking for wisdom, strength, and honor.
“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:22–24)
God saves us through the “foolishness” of the gospel. How is this? Paul answers, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25).
Becoming a Christian then is becoming, in the eyes of many, a fool. It’s embracing a morality, identity, and value system that’s ignorant and out-of-step.
Are you willing to be a fool for Christ? Are you a holy, happy, and hope-filled fool for Jesus?
Find your identity in him.
Publicly associate with his people.
Speak his name to others.
Lean upon him for your hope.
Submit to his Word above all.
The gospel makes us happy fools on April 1 and every other day.