Mama Bears, Wild Turkeys and Fools

When I tell people we have wild turkey in my town, I wonder if they think I mean this kind:

This morning I was walking through town and came across these fellow pedestrians, though, and thought I’d take a couple pictures so you can see what I mean:


When I mentioned running near wild turkeys in a recent Thanksgiving post, Laura asked me what I do when they get too close. The turkeys tend to move on rather than confront people but it’s not wise to invade their space. They can get defensive and dangerous if challenged, and I’d especially avoid trying to go right through a whole gang* of them like I saw this morning.

The Bible tells us to avoid turkeys too.

Give Turkeys the Right of Way

If you consult a concordance or search an on-line resource you won’t find the word turkey in the Bible anywhere, not even once. But the Bible tells us just the same to give them a wide berth. It just doesn’t mention them by name.

When I was a kid, a turkey was not only a bird but a person. Actually, it was a particular type of person. And you didn’t want to be one.

Jive Turkey – noun: a stupid person. (

Calling someone a jive turkey was fighting words, depending on the context. If you dropped “jive” and used just “turkey” it lost some of the sting but still wasn’t a compliment, because it didn’t just mean you thought the person was unintelligent. It meant you thought they were either lying, trying to take advantage of you, speaking nonsense when they had no clue what they were talking about, or worse.

The bottom line: this person was not worth your time.

Bible Turkeys

Like a lot of ’70s slang this one fell out of use. But keeping my distance from the wild turkeys today got me thinking of Scripture.

To call someone a jive turkey was like calling someone a fool in a sense close to what the Bible means by foolishness: someone who is morally suspect. And while the Bible may not call these people turkeys, it doesn’t hesitate to call out fools and warn us to give them a wide berth.

Walk with the wise and become wise,
    for a companion of fools suffers harm. (Proverbs 13:20.)

And in case you’re wondering how much harm a fool’s companion might suffer:

Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs
    than a fool bent on folly. (Proverbs 17:12.)

That sounds rough. Bears are strong and have long claws and sharp teeth and probably are as protective of their young as any animal can be. So if you are walking along and suddenly see a bear whose been robbed of her cubs ahead of you while a fool has come up behind you, you are to choose heading toward the bear. The Bible considers this a wise choice.

Here’s why: the fool in these passages has a corrupting influence much worse than the physical harm the bear could do to you. It’s a spiritual matter.

The Bible warns against fools because fools turn their minds away from God. So we’re told:

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2.)

The words “wicked”, “sinners” and “mockers” in those verses all denote the same concept of immorality the word “fool” has in Proverbs, and it’s not good. So when it comes to fools, treat them as I treated the wild turkeys.

Embrace the bear if necessary, but keep your distance from the turkeys.


Yes, a group of them is called a gang of turkeys.

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10 Responses to Mama Bears, Wild Turkeys and Fools

  1. janehinrichs says:

    A gang of turkeys — that makes so much sense in so many ways!!!!

  2. Mary Anne says:

    Sounds like the proper thing for a believer to do is head for a congregation of plovers–or better yet, an exaltation of larks. Yeah, during some of my youthful larks, I had a distinct sense of exaltation. 😉 Too bad that sort doesn’t last.

    I think my fave on that list is a “bloat” of hippos. So appropriate. And a perfect description of how one feels after all those recent holiday treats and junk food.

  3. Pastor Bob says:

    A flock of turkeys can be bad news indeed. But the value is in the tom, who has the grandeur to impress, or inflict injury.
    When in my youth in the 70’s, we called the minor twits – turkeys. Now the word is far more unkind. The major fool designation has not changed much.
    —- Or —-
    “Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
    Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!”

  4. Jeannie says:

    I like your point here, Tim, about giving fools a wide berth! “Turkey” is a fun-sounding word, too, though; I often call Jonathan a “big fat turkey” just for fun and he seems to enjoy the sound of the word. And one night, long after he’d gone to bed and should’ve been asleep, I heard him opening his bedroom door. I went downstairs and there he was standing outside his door. I gave him an eyebrows-raised what-are-you-doing-up look, and he smiled up and me and said “Turkey.” 🙂

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